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AVG Internet Security 8.0 review: AVG Internet Security 8.0

AVG Internet Security 8.0 provides strong protection against malicious Web sites, but its full-system scans sometimes tax system resources and produce false positives.

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Robert Vamosi
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Robert Vamosi

Former Editor

As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.

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5 min read
Installation

While installing, AVG asks one critical question: do you want to install the security toolbar? Since it's hard to say whether you want that, we recommend saying no. Although AVG recommends installation, we found that it only installs the Yahoo toolbar. Even without the toolbar, we were still able to use the Linkscanner technology.

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6.5

AVG Internet Security 8.0

The Good

Includes Linkscanner technology to block malicious Web sites.

The Bad

Resource heavy. Flags some legitimate programs as potentially harmful. Doesn't provide additional information on malicious software. Doesn't provide adequate antiphishing protection. Installs the Yahoo search engine.

The Bottom Line

AVG Internet Security 8.0 provides strong protection against malicious Web sites, but its full-system scans sometimes tax system resources and produce false positives.

We were able to download and install AVG Internet Security 8.0 on a Dell XPS machine running Windows XP SP2 with no difficulty and without rebooting. If you are upgrading from a previous version of AVG, you must uninstall that version first before installing version 8.0. AVG provides a fully functional 30-day trial.

After installation, AVG walks you through a seven-steps:

  1. Screen one merely describes the wizard
  2. Screen two asks how often AVG should update itself
  3. Screen three asks if you want to report compromised Web sites to AVG
  4. Screen four asks if you want to use the Yahoo search as your Internet browser default (this is the second time you are asked to adopt the Yahoo search engine; if you installed the security toolbar, you'll already have Yahoo on your browser via the toolbar)
  5. Screens five and six gets you to download updates
  6. The seventh step tells you that the seven-step process you've completed is just the first part.

AVG strongly urges that you proceed with the Firewall Wizard once the first setup process is finished. First, AVG asks if you have a standalone computer or a network computer. Next it asks you to select which directories have your common applications that need to access the Internet. The next few screens walk you through configuring the firewall. Afterward, you will see several messages warning you that something is trying to access the Internet. We feel there were more of these with AVG than with similar products.

We do not like the interface in AVG Internet Security 8.0. Although it is an improvement over the previous design, the right windowpane is too crowded with large icons for Antivirus, Antispyware, Rootkit and Update. There are twelve icons in all. Below each is a statement telling you if that feature is active. Clicking an icon will either access additional information about that tool or run that specific scan.

The left windowpane includes only three options, Overview (the icon view in the right hand window), Computer Scanner and Update Now. Computer Scanner has but one option, scan all. Update Now is equally opaque, mysteriously searching and downloading something onto your PC.

A toolbar above these windows contains the advanced feature options.

Features
AVG Internet Security 8.0 has many new features including Linkscanner technology, which AVG Technologies acquired with its recent acquisition of Exploit Prevention Labs. It flags malicious Web sites, however, unlike the standalone version of Linkscanner there is no additional information provided about the threat. The integration of Linkscanner is less than optimal and the apparent lack of antiphishing protection within AVG Internet Security is curious. Linkscanner is known for two things: its capability to block malicious code and its lack of antiphishing protection. AVG considers its antispam technology as its antiphishing protection, but e-mail phishing is just one part of the threat.

We tested AVG Internet Security 8.0 by visiting five current phishing Web sites listed on Phish Track. AVG reported none to be suspicious, although the default antiphishing protection in Firefox 2.0 did flag several sites.

For threat testing, we directed our browser to a site known to host malicious content. AVG Internet Security 8.0 did flag the site, however, our request for additional information about the threat produced a generic AVG virus encyclopedia page. With the standalone Linkscanner Pro package, it would tell us which exploit it found and it would produce a rich log archive so you can see which sites it said had malicious software. We couldn't find any of that within AVG Internet Security.

Aside from active Web threats, AVG Internet Security 8.0 protects against threats within downloaded images, music and from instant messaging and peer-to-peer file transfers.

Performance
In informal testing, on a Dell system with a 134GB drive and 2GB of RAM running Windows XP SP2, we found the suite consumed many system resources. While there is a toggle option to help reduce the impact of full system scans on performance, we kept ours in the default position.

During the rootkit scan, AVG asked us to minimise our computer usage. We haven't seen that before. AVG used 20 percent to 30 percent of system resources during the scan -- somewhat high, but not as high as during a full system scan.

During a full system scan, our resource usage leapt to 70 percent, at times slowing our use of the system. The rootkit scan took well over an hour to complete.

The scan found mostly Internet cookies, however, it did identify one legitimate program as a "potentially harmful program." The program, XeroBank xb Browser, is an anonymous version of Firefox 2 that uses The Onion Router network to disguise Internet traffic. Xb Browser is used by many people in countries that censor Internet users.

When asked about the false positive, an AVG representative said "some programs might be used for legit purposes by some, but are also quite often misused for illegit (sic) purposes. These are often installed by hackers when they invade a system. The app mentioned is one such fine example -- that is why we call it 'potentially unwanted' application. Such apps can be added to exceptions easily if the users (sic) knows what they do and why he installed it."

Steve Topletz, the developer who wrote XeroBank responded: "The obvious reason is that AVG may feel compelled to cater to corporate clients, rather than provide honest and accurate identification. In the end, the user suffers. We regret companies that use their software to subdue and scare users, but XeroBank will continue to develop software that empowers users to take control of their privacy."

Two leading independent antivirus testing organisations give AVG high ratings for PC protection. In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org it gave AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 -- the previous version -- an Advanced rating (highest) for On Demand protection and Advanced Plus (highest) for heuristic protection, blocking 97 percent of the malicious code used in the test. Our second source of independent antivirus testing, CheckVir.com, gave AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 a Standard rating (highest) for identifying malicious software (the products were not tested for removal).

Support
AVG Internet Security 8.0 is priced at AU$101.95 for a two year, single user license including unlimited signature updates and program upgrades. A special 3-pack licence offer for AVG Internet Security 8.0 covering up to 3 PCs for two years is also available for AU$123.25.

Free telephone support is included during Melbourne business hours, plus AVG provides Internet Security 8.0 customers with free 24/7 e-mail technical support within the program. There are searchable FAQs on AVG's Web site with a handful of useful questions and answers. There is also a downloadable 172-page PDF users' manual that lacks a comprehensive index. There is no online user's forum, however.

Conclusion
Despite the addition of Linkscanner and numerous small enhancements, we feel there are other suites (such as our current Editors' Choice ZoneAlarm Internet Security 7) that provide equivalent security protection and integrate their tools much better.

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