Avira Free Security – Review 2021
You need antivirus protection on all of your devices, whether you’ve budgeted for it or not. If ready cash is an issue, you can choose one of the many effective free antivirus tools on the market. Avira Free Security takes free protection to the next level, offering VPN, password management, ad blocking, and more. However, it is not a typical security suite. You won’t find firewall protection, backup, spam filtering, or other popular suite components. Its wealth of ingredients will delight the right user, but its scores, in both our own tests and independent lab tests, have fallen since the last review.
In the past years, Avira offered both a free standalone antivirus and a free suite. The current product, Avira Free Security, supersedes both. The previous set sometimes looked like a loose association of separate Avira products, along with a lot of nag screens suggesting that the paid versions had been upgraded. The current product is significantly more integrated, which is a significant improvement. It’s more suitable for non-technical users now, although vending screens are still there.
The closest comparable product to this group is Kaspersky Security Cloud Free. Kaspersky Free Suite is a feature-limited version of the company’s commercial Kaspersky Security Cloud. Even with its limitations, it is a more complete security suite than Avira.
Also note that Avira was acquired by Norton at the end of 2020. The company has stated that it intends to keep the Avira brand, and there is still no sign of Avira by Norton that has been promoted.
The main product status screen displays large icons for security, privacy, and performance. A simple menu at the bottom left allows you to search these three feature areas or return to the main status page. Finally, you can click a button to launch the All-in-One Smart Scan. If you do not run Smart Scan immediately after a quick and simple installation, the product will continue to remind you until you do.
Smart Scan checks for active malware, of course, but it does a lot more. It analyzes your settings for privacy issues, looks for ways to improve performance, identifies apps that need updating, and scans the network for potential security issues. More on Smart Scan later.
Antivirus lab drops from perfect
To complete the practical testing of antivirus products, I turn to reports regularly issued by four independent laboratories around the world. The mere fact that a particular product appears in a report means that laboratory experts thought it was important enough to merit the testing and reporting effort. The higher the lab results, the better the results, and of course high scores are important. On the last review, Avira had perfect scores from all four laboratories. It still has four lab grades, but right now it’s not perfect.
Researchers at the AV-Test Institute evaluate each antivirus product according to three distinct criteria. And, of course, they measure its ability to protect against malware. They also rate products according to how well they avoid reporting legitimate processes as malicious, an index they call usability. They ensure that the product does all this without compromising performance. A producer can earn up to six points for each of the three criteria. A third of the products tested, including Avast, Kaspersky, and Norton, scored six in the three categories.
Avira had perfect scores on the last review, but in the last report it came near the bottom, with a 5.0 for protection, a 5.5 for performance, and a 6.0 for usability, with an overall score of 16.5. Only eScan, PC Matic Home, and Vipre Antivirus Plus scored lower.
Among the many reports from AV Comparison, I follow three. This lab does not use numbers. Instead, a product that passes the test receives a standard certification. Those who go beyond the basics can earn an Advanced or Advanced+ certification. Bitdefender is the only product I’m following that has managed 3 advanced+ ratings in the most recent tests. Like Panda Free Antivirus, G Data, and many others, Avira got one standard, one advanced, and one advanced+ certification this time around.
With SE Labs, certification comes in five levels: AAA, AA, A, B, and C. Like almost all products tested, Avira has the top level AAA.
As you can see, most labs offer a range of degrees to reflect a range of abilities. The tests conducted by London-based MRG-Effitas were scored differently. In the reports of this lab, the product shows almost complete protection or fails completely. I’m following a test focused on banking Trojans and another that tests a comprehensive malware defense. Of the 11 products tested, only Bitdefender, ESET NOD32 Antivirus, and Norton passed both tests. Avira passed the banking trojan test but failed the comprehensive protection test.
Since all labs use different scoring systems, I have devised an algorithm that plots scores on a 10-point scale and produces a score total. On the last review, Avira got a full 10 points. This time, her overall score is 9.0. This is decent, but still a huge downgrade. Kaspersky has the highest score of 9.9 points. Like Kaspersky and Avira, Avast appears in reports from all four labs. Its scores combine to total an impressive 9.5 points.
Poor results for malware removal
Despite the lab results, I always do my own hands-on tests. I start by opening a folder containing malware samples that I sponsored and analyzed myself. Avira immediately began quarantining those she was introduced to. It has eliminated only 66 percent of the samples on the horizon, which is very low. Kaspersky and Bitdefender have both wiped out 86 percent of samples at this point. On the plus side, Avira got rid of every ransomware sample except for a type of screen locker that is less worrisome. After Avira’s initial reaction was recorded, I released samples that bypassed this initial culling.
When Avira Real-time Protection detected malware trying to install, a notification popped up and opened a small progress meter called Luke Filewalker, representing the product’s progress in cleaning up any traces of malware that might have landed on the system. Avira has used this whimsical name for more years than I can count. Apparently, George Lucas doesn’t mind.
In the end, Avira detected 87 percent of the samples and scored 8.2 out of 10 possible points. Of the products tested with the current suite of malware, Heimdal Premium Security Home scored only partially low. And unlike the last time I reviewed it, Avira doesn’t have perfect lab results as a counterweight.
Among other existing products, Malwarebytes performed better, with 100 percent detection and 10 perfect scores. McAfee and Weybrot came close behind, with 9.9 and 9.8 points, respectively. Tested with the previous sample set, Sophos Home Free also detected every sample and scored a respectable 9.8.
A full scan of my standard clean test system took an hour and three minutes, which is slightly faster than the current average. This first scan obviously made some improvements, as the repetitive scan finished in just 15 minutes. The quick scan was completed in less than half a minute.
Avira offers many browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Opera. This includes a password manager, shopping assistant, and a security-centric browser security extension. Among other things, Browser Safety aims to avoid any possibility of malware infection by directing your browser away from malware-hosting URLs. To test this feature, I start with a feed of URLs recently discovered by researchers at the British lab MRG-Effitas. I run each URL, ignore any error with it, and see if the antivirus blocked access to the entire URL, deleted the malware download, or did nothing.
I give credit for blocking the URL and removing the download. Avira achieved 78 percent protection, roughly equally divided between blocking access to a malware-hosting URL and eliminating malware upon download. This puts it near the bottom, in terms of the score. McAfee AntiVirus Plus achieved 100 percent protection in this test, while Bitdefender, Sophos, and G Data managed 99 percent.
Decent phishing protection
Encrypting a Trojan horse or any other malware that can steal passwords while evading antivirus tools is tricky. Fooling unsuspecting consumers into innocently surrendering their login credentials is a lot easier. Phishing scammers simply create a website that is visually identical to PayPal, for example. Sometimes they run a URL that is close to the real thing, like pyapal.login.com. When a web surfer inadvertently logs in, the scammers take away the username and password, and the unfortunate Internet user is shut down.
Avira’s web protection extends to detecting and avoiding phishing attacks as well. To test it, I first scraped hundreds of reported phishing URLs from websites that track such things, including verified scams and reported pages that were too new to blacklist. I fired each URL in an Avira-protected browser, and at the same time in Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, relying on each browser’s built-in protection. I’ve ignored anything that didn’t load properly in all four browsers. I’ve also ignored anything that clearly doesn’t fit into a phishing scam profile. When I got enough data points, I ran the numbers.
Avira detected 91 percent of verified scams, down two points from its last test but still in the top half of existing products. Chrome and Firefox had a good day. Both beat Avira by four percentage points. F-Secure Anti-Virus and McAfee top the list of phishing scams, with 100 percent detection, while Bitdefender and Norton come close to 99 percent.
Phishing is a completely independent platform. If you can surf the web on your internet-aware lawn mower, you can just as easily give up your login credentials there on your computer. However, third-party phishing protection is not necessarily the same from one platform to another. Some products score completely differently on Windows than they do on macOS. Avira protects you from scams in Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera, regardless of the operating system. Avira Free Antivirus for Mac was tested at the same time, and it got exactly the same result.
While it is a good idea to use software that protects you from phishing, you should also know what to do to protect yourself. For tips on how to do this, you can read How to Avoid Scams.
See how we test security softwareSee how we test security software
The Security page is the go-to for starting and scheduling antivirus scans. In addition to the expected quick and complete scan, you can schedule precise options such as scanning for rootkits or just scanning the Documents folder. To see all malware detected by Avira, click to view Quarantine. Here you can permanently delete the found threats or in a file very An unlikely event of a false positive, restore quarantined legitimate programs.
You can also click to configure the protection options on this page, but that is no use. In the free version, only system protection is enabled. If you try to enable web protection, email protection, or ransomware protection, you launch a page that advises you to upgrade to Avira Prime. If you decline, Avira offers a 60-day Prime trial to tempt you. Note that web protection is a browser-independent component, and completely distinct from browser security.
It’s worth noting that Kaspersky’s free suite includes ransomware protection. During testing, it handled not only the typical file encryption ransomware but also the less common types of lock screen and disk encryption.
When ne’er-do-wells discover vulnerabilities in popular software, they exploit them to the fullest, knowing that the software maker will soon release a security patch to close these vulnerabilities. If you do not install the available patches, you are putting yourself at risk. The Software Updater component scans your installed applications and determines which ones have cool security patches…