Today we welcome AVG Internet Security 2011 to the Security for Everyone series. AVG has been in the business of protecting desktop PC's since 1991 and has been a bit of an antivirus favorite for quite some time, especially among those early seekers of free solutions. AVG has not been without problems as evidenced by a couple of instances of updates causing crashes or blocking internet access from 2008 to present. Despite these latest issues customers have historically reported great satisfaction with AVG solutions. Let's get ourselves acquainted with AVG Internet Security 2011.
AVG provides a seamless download and install experience. There aren't any unnecessary hoops to jump through and the install wizard provides for some customization. The latter is well received among those looking to tailor their security solution and allows removing components like the firewall and email scanner. AVG also installs their browser Security Toolbar by default. However both the Quick and Custom install modes allow you to remove this item from the installation.
Once installed, you'll get a semi-attractive Windows 7 security widget on your desktop with quick access to running a scan or update. The widget also contains a button which activates a PC Analyzer. In short, this launches the analyzer function of AVG which is basically an ad which shows the number of problems identified and encourages you to buy the full AVG analyzer product to correct the problems. This is not a tactic I appreciate but it fits in perfectly well with the other ads and nag screens displayed throughout the trial. It would have been nice if the onslaught of ads could have been delayed until further on in the trial, but then I would not have been able to tell you of them. A double edged sword I guess.
There is no initial scan performed but the main interface does alert you to the fact one has not been done. AVG handles ending the native Windows Firewall and Windows Defender services by replacing them with the AVG equivalents.
The main interface is laid out in a control panel style and provides ample information in the sidebar regarding when the last scan was performed, status of updates as well as version and license information. The modules are plentiful and this alone may lead to a bit of intimidation for the novice user. Double clicking the module icon will deliver you into the associated basic settings and, if applicable, provide a link to the advanced settings.
Initial prompts for application access have been at a minimum and none of my chief PC activities have been interrupted. The firewall appears to do a good job of identifying the kind of network I am connecting to and adjusts the security profile accordingly. We'll learn just how effective this is in the coming firewall section.
There appears to be quite a bit to the AVG Internet Security 2011 suite. My first impression is the suite certainly has all the bases covered yet the configuration of the numerous modules has the potential to be cumbersome if not presented well. The following section will take a closer look at the ease of use and configuration in an effort to address this perception.
Ease of Use and Configuration
Working with the AVG configuration has identified some inconsistencies that lead to confusion for some users. For example, the scan options are found within the main sidebar links, yet the firewall setting are found by double clicking the firewall icon from the main interface. There is also no easy way to identify which components have settings that can be adjusted without going into each one. Seemingly small inconsistencies like these lead to random clicking which can lead to frustration.
Once the settings have been discovered you'll find AVG does a decent job of bringing the basic settings to the forefront. In many cases these settings include the ability to disable a component or tweak how the application should respond to threats. In instances when scanning is involved, you are given the opportunity to identify the types of files that should be scanned or the network activity to monitor.
AVG does a good job of providing a description of the selected components without employing geek speak. This is important given the breadth of the suite.
Despite the effort AVG has put into bringing basic setting to the casual user, there will likely be instances when you need to wander into the more advanced settings. This is where things will certainly become intimidating. The advanced settings are accessible from many of the individual component screens but can also be accessed by selecting Tools and Advanced settings. The options are many for each component and combine the basic and advanced settings in a nested menu system.
What won't be found in the advanced application settings are those settings that deal with the firewall. There are three basic settings allowed from the main firewall screen: changing the firewall profile, enabling or disabling the firewall and enabling or disabling gamer mode. All other firewall settings (application access, port rules etc.) are managed via the advanced interface. The options here are extensive and will be discussed a bit more in the firewall section below.
AVG seems to have adopted the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach. There is no shying away from the advanced settings and they appear to be doing the best they can to empower their users without overwhelming them. How well the latter is being accomplished is likely open for debate. The question most full featured suites need to answer is, how good is the default protection? The answer to this will determine how often one needs to concern themselves with looking behind the curtain. We will try to answer this question in the following sections.
AVG has made basic firewall management pretty accessible. You can right click the AVG icon in the system tray to handle tasks such as turning the firewall off and on or changing the security profile. These same functions exist in the main interface and can be found by double clicking the firewall component icon.
The main firewall interface includes another helpful option labeled, Regenerate configuration. This is the button you'll hit if you find yourself getting into trouble because you tweaked one too many application rules.
If you are the type that made note of the previous sentence you'll appreciate the detailed firewall section.
AVG allows you to manage all those granular settings associated with port rules and application access. You can take steps to define the networks you connect to and build your own custom security profiles. AVG also extends a lot of configuration toward logging capabilities. This gives you the ability to log all traffic, unknown traffic, traffic associated with specific services, such as Windows Media Center, or any combination you can come up with.
For those of you who share your computer with others, you may appreciate the options which allow you to define the types of users who can modify the firewall configuration. AVG also gives you the ability to export and import the firewall configuration. This is another option the power users among us will like.
No firewall evaluation is complete without forcing a couple of intrusive scans against the system. I performed two scans with the AVG firewall at the default configuration. The results were very satisfying. Only one port was identified as open and the operating system could not even begin to be identified. I also did not encounter any prompts indicating any nefarious activity was occurring; however, the logs certainly displayed that activity.
AVG has put together a very thorough firewall offering. The prompts displayed during regular use are very minimal and only seem to display when an application that is not on the AVG trusted list is trying to access the Internet. The default protection is above average and requires little if any additional configuration.
Antivirus and Antispyware Features
The AVG Internet Security 2011 scanning options are plentiful and thankfully most of them are managed from the main interface. When working with the scan options, you'll find the interface itself intuitive and useful. Options exist to change settings associated with the whole computer scan or specific file and folder scan. You can also start an Anti-Rootkit scan and set a scan schedule.
One setting I appreciated from the active scan interface was where you could set the scan process priority, which basically determines how quickly a scan completes and how much your system feels the performance hit from the scan.
The scan schedule interface is intuitive and provides an option to run a scan at computer startup, if a previous scan was missed because the PC was asleep or powered off. You can also set the scan priority for a scheduled scan, another well thought out option.
The virus vault, or quarantine, is accessible from the scan options and allows for restoration of wrongly identified threats. You can access all application events from this same interface where you gain insight into when specific components have been updated, the stopping and starting of scans and more.
It wasn't so many years ago that threats were introduced by email and floppy disks. Today the threat landscape has changed considerably and more threats are encountered simply by browsing the internet. The same technology that brings you speedy online applications can easily be used to execute malicious code on your system. I browsed several known malicious sites and AVG handled them very well. In all cases the AVG prompt was displayed ahead of any browser prompts and most importantly AVG blocked access when the browser did not identify the threat.
My testing of local malware and viruses was mixed. AVG simply did not find as many threats as other tested solutions. No amount of forced scans, copying files or adjusting settings changed these results.
I took some time to see what the real testing organizations have to say about AVG and found that both AV-Comparatives.org and AV-Test.org have found the protection to be sufficient. Av-comparatives awarded AVG the Advanced (average) rating while av-test.org awarded AVG their certification with 5.5 out of 6 for protection and 4 out of 6 for repair.
Despite my own mixed results, AVG antivirus appears to be an average solution that provides good protection where it matters most.
The complete AVG Internet Security 2011 solution is effective. The default configuration is sufficient, however the likelihood that you will have to make adjustments in the rather intimidating advanced settings is almost a certainty. AVG has also implemented so many components to the solution, with differing configuration access, that managing them will likely intimidate the novice user. A handful of changes to the interface would make this a very viable solution for Grandma, but for the time being the award shall be "Buy for Geeks!".