Security for Everyone - Reviewing avast! Internet Security 7

Avast! products have been reviewed here at 7 Tutorials multiple times, but they never managed to receive the ultimate accolade of Buy for Everyone!. In version 7 of their security products for home computers, they brag about several new features being introduced: remote assistance, real-time virus database updates via their cloud network, a new file reputation system and compatibility with the test versions of Windows 8. Are these novelties, plus other tweaks and changes they made, enough for avast! Internet Security 7.0 to grab our ultimate recommendation? Let’s learn together in this review.

First Impressions

The trial version of avast! Internet Security 7.0 weighs 93.7MB and it is downloaded with ease, without having to provide any personal information. Also, during the installation you are not asked to enter any personal details. I was happy to see this behavior and I hope more security vendors will opt for it.

When you launch the installation program, the first window is minimalistic and resembles that of Norton Internet Security 2012. Therefore I was expecting a one-click installation or something similar.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

That is not the case though, even if you choose the Express Install. You have to choose whether you want to install the suite in trial mode or you want to provide a license key or activation code. Then, surprisingly, you are asked if you want to install the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. I was definitely not expecting to see this product bundled with a commercial security suite and I chose not to install it. I’m sure many avast! users won’t appreciate this bundle either.

Once these details are ironed out, the installation is uneventful. At the end, a quick scan of the system is made. Then, you are asked if you would like to restart the computer now or later. I immediately restarted and, once I logged back in, I tried to launch avast! Internet Security 7.0. To my surprise, it was unable to start. It kept saying that "The application has failed to start because its side-by-side configuration is incorrect.".

avast! Internet Security 7.0

I did a bit of research and this problem seems to be common with other users. Several forum topics have been created to find solutions. Here’s one of them, which includes some possible workarounds: The application has failed to start because its side-by-side configuration. Lucky for me, I solved the problem by uninstalling avast!, restarting my computer and installing it again, this time without performing an immediate reboot. It worked like a charm and l restarted my computer later on, after avast! made some quick updates.

After the reboot, avast! Internet Security 7.0 asked me about the type of network I am connected to and started updating itself. What surprised me again was that the first notification I received was accompanied by a recording of an actual person informing me of this update.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

I wasn’t sure whether I enjoyed it or not, but it was definitely something I was not expecting. With that out of the way, I finally opened avast! Internet Security 7.0. I was welcomed by a non-intimidating interface which briefly shared the status of my system’s protection.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

All-in-all the first impression was a mixed one. I enjoyed the friendliness of the installation process, the immediate quick scan of the system, that I was asked to select the type of network I am connected to and that avast! updated itself automatically. However, having the Google Toolbar bundled with the product and the fact that it did not work from the very beginning, definitely ruined what would have otherwise been a great experience. I was anxious to learn more though.

Integration with Windows

In previous reviews of avast! products, we highlighted that they do not end the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender services. We believe this is a poor practice that can lead to lower system performance and possible complications between multiple real-time security products being active at once. It would be great if avast! would stop ignoring this aspect and at least ask users during the installation process, whether they would like these Windows protection services disabled.

Avast! users who would like to disable them, can read the following guides:
Windows Defender - How to Turn it On or Off
Windows Firewall - How it Works and How to Enable or Disable It.

Another poor integration aspect is the fact that avast! doesn’t use smooth scaling icons. Their products still use the old Windows XP style icons.

There are also positives in the way avast! Internet Security 7.0 is integrated with Windows. First, all networking features in Windows work well with this security suite installed. Also, the amount of RAM used by avast!’s services is of only 28 to 30 MB. However, its impact on boot timings is rather big. On my test system it added 14 seconds to the boot procedure, which is bigger than what I’ve seen with other security suites.

A positive change since the last version is that all its protection services are now secured and cannot be terminated with ease.

avast! Internet Security 7.0 is well integrated with all major browsers and installs the WebRep add-on, to give a quick overview of the reputation of the websites you are visiting. You can use it also to provide feedback about websites to avast!.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

The websites you are visiting are automatically checked by avast! and, if marked as malicious, they are automatically blocked.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

Unfortunately, the mixed impressions continued when evaluating how well avast! Internet Security 7.0 is integrated with Windows. Let’s see how easy it is to use and configure.

Ease of Use & Configuration

You don’t have to use it for long to notice that, from an interface perspective, avast! Internet Security 7.0 is almost identical to its previous version. However, that’s not a bad thing, as the interface is easy to understand and use.

On the left side you have tabs that give you access to all its modules. On top, you have the Settings button that gives access to all the basic settings you would expect. Then, for most modules there is also an Expert Settings button, which takes you to the more advanced aspects of the suite.

One positive fact I noticed is that avast! Internet Security 7.0 gives the most options you can have in a security suite, for scanning your computer and for scheduling scans. You can create really detailed scans for which you can set exceptions, behaviors, scanning locations, schedules, etc. I’ve never seen so many details available for configuration and I loved it.

Also, I very much enjoyed the presence of the boot-time scan, which can be scheduled in case you have problems with tough malware infections. I actually got to use this feature and it did its job well at removing a very bad behaving virus.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

What’s not great though, is the fact that there is no default scheduled scan enabled by avast! Internet Security 7.0. Not even a regular quick scan scheduled to run on a weekly basis. Users have to create a regular scheduled scan for themselves. I found this both unexpected and ironic, considering how much attention has been put into to all the scanning and scheduling features.

The interface is really easy to understand and use. You will have no issues navigating it. Even when it comes to more advanced configuration options, the language used is not very technical. I found it easy to understand all the options made available.

However, if it happens that you do not understand something, the Help documentation will provide enough information to improve your understanding on how things work.

When it comes to reporting, there is a Statistics tab, under the Summary category. There you will find some visual graphs for each protection module, that will share relevant information. However, I felt the need for an aggregated report, that gave me a quick picture of what happened overall with the whole security suite, not just with each individual module. That’s not a big problem though.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

The alerts shown by avast! Internet Security 7.0 are easy to understand even by non-technical users. Also, all of them are accompanied by an audio recording which might please some users and annoy others. You will notice as well that avast! is more verbose than other suites. If you like your security suite to be more silent and alert you only when problems have been detected, you definitely need to spend some time on configuring what alerts you receive and how long they are displayed.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

When it comes to support, the situation is very positive. The support features available to avast! users are made transparent from the main interface. You can use their FAQs documentation, their community forum, place a support ticket, use their manuals and help documentation or receive remote assistance from a friend using avast!. The support options are plentiful, easy to find and clearly communicated.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

This is definitely a refreshing change from other suites, which make it hard for their users to access the available support services.

Firewall

The network protection modules of avast! Internet Security 7.0 are generally silent. You will receive few or no alerts from them, even when some of your network traffic is blocked. This doesn’t mean though, that the firewall doesn’t do its job or that you cannot configure it in more detail.

Initially, I had the impression that there are no advanced rules you can set. I was proven wrong. All the more detailed settings and rules are hidden in the Expert Settings menus. There you can define application rules, packet rules, etc.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

If you are into tweaking detailed aspects of the firewall, avast! Internet Security 7.0 provides all the configuration options you need.

When it comes to its performance with the default configuration being used, the results of my tests were rather average. For example, when connected to a network that was marked as Home/Low risk zone, my tests with Nessus and Nmap revealed 12 open ports, my computer’s MAC address and the exact version of the operating system I was using. Also, Nessus revealed that my computer was vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. That’s a pretty weak result, which is bested by many other suites.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

When I changed the network profile to Public/High Risk Zone, the picture dramatically improved. No open ports were found and only the MAC address could be identified. This is a good result for when you are connected to public networks.

All-in-all, even though the performance of the firewall is rather average, working with it was easy. I had no problems configuring it and I, as most users, was pleased by its silence, that contrasts with the other protection modules.

Antivirus and Antispyware Features

Just like the rest of the suite, the antivirus and antispyware features were easy to use. The alerts I received were informing me when malware has been disinfected and they did not ask me to make a decision whether I want the malware removed or not. That was fine with me. A click less is always appreciated! :)

One of the tests I make is to pre-infect my system and then install the security suite I am testing. Since the virus I used was on a very bad behavior, I had to reboot into Safe Mode, in order to install avast! Internet Security 7.0. I very much enjoyed seeing that avast! detected this and proposed to schedule a boot-time antivirus scan of my computer. I scheduled it and, after I rebooted, the scan was able to identify the virus and remove it successfully.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

When inserting external media such as USB memory sticks or DVDs, avast! doesn’t prompt the user for a scan. However, it starts scanning any new media as soon as it is accessed. I was pleased to see that all malware I had on my USB memory stick was immediately detected and removed.

avast! Internet Security 7.0

Also, when trying to browse malicious websites, access was promptly blocked. Even though my tests are not very complex, I found the avast! Internet Security 7.0 malware protection modules to be fast, effective and easy to use.

I also looked at what other independent organisations had to say about avast! Internet Security 7.0. Unfortunately the new version of this product has not yet been tested.

AV-Comparatives has awarded an average Advanced award for the previous version of the suite. AV-Test also reported average scores for the previous version. They awarded a 4.0 out of 6.0 for protection and a 3.0 for repair. It is unclear also what version was tested by Virus Bulletin. They awarded a great 90%+ Reactive Detection Rate and an average 70%+ Proactive Detection Rate for avast!.

Verdict

BUY for GeeksGiving a verdict for avast! Internet Security 7.0 is a bittersweet experience. This product is very friendly, easy to use and it has the potential to become a great product. However, it lacks in areas that can be easily fixed, but which don’t seem to get enough attention from the product’s development team:

  • solving product installation bugs;
  • giving users the option to disable the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender during the installation;
  • improving the default configuration so that the firewall is more effective and default scans are scheduled.

Unfortunately avast! Internet Security 7.0 remains a product only geeks will be able to enjoy, after spending some time to improve its default configuration.