Cons: Poor anti-spam; range of protection modules can be confusing; multi-licence version is expensive
Bottomline: Solid protection from viruses and other attacks, but the anti-spam tool is relatively poor
Companies developing security software aimed at the home market have something of a problem on their hands at present.
They want their software to appear simple and easy to use, but equally they need to boast about the level of protection offered.
AVG, along with most of its competitors, appears to be shifting to the latter.
Although the revamped interface looks much slicker than previous versions, the first screen you’re presented with has no fewer than 12 different icons, each indicating a different security module of the suite.
Joining the usual anti-virus, firewall and anti-spam are anti-rootkit, Web Shield and Linkscanner.
By default, a full computer scan will check for all threats (be they viruses or spyware). The only exception is a scan for rootkits, which has to be added to the schedule manually. Only during these full scans did AVG hog our test PC’s resources – at other times it kept below the radar.
AVG’s anti-virus tool is available free and has a 100 per cent detection rate certified by the independent bodies ICSA Labs and VB100. Like most anti-virus packages, it detects viruses both by maintaining a list of known threats as well as heuristic scanning that detects new viruses based on their behaviour.
The firewall passed a series of leak tests, both closing and hiding ports from prying eyes, and a wizard helps novice users by scanning your PC for known applications requiring internet access. Once completed, you can review the applications AVG has detected.
AVG’s anti-spam component has various features, such as the option to automatically remove attachments with predefined file extensions or define safe senders, but the process of detecting and then dealing with spam isn’t quite so impressive.
We tested it on a mailbox containing a mixture of obvious spam and genuine emails. Although it caught most of the spam, it also flagged up various marketing emails and newsletters.
What’s more, it simply places the text ‘[SPAM]’, leaving you to set up a filter to deal with them in your email client. We were also disappointed at how long it took to scan incoming emails. It’s not a problem if you’ve only got a few emails, but retrieving a lot will take a while.
The Linkscanner tool integrates with Internet Explorer and Firefox, and consists of two further components: Active Surf-Shield and Surf-Shield. The former scans pages in real time, warning you if there’s potentially dangerous link, while the latter works in conjunction with popular search engines, placing a green tick next to results that are rated as safe.
AVG Internet Security 8 will set you back £39.99, which puts it about £10 cheaper than most rival products. However, this only includes one licence whereas the standard these days is three. On the AVG website you can add more licences, for £10 each, but if you go for the maximum of 10 (£149) you’ll end up paying more than £10 for each one, which seems a little odd.
The software has its strengths, not least a robust anti-virus component, but certain elements of AVG Internet Security 8 disappoint.
The anti-spam could be vastly improved, both in terms of the speed it takes to scan incoming mail and how spam is dealt with once identified. And although the array of components indicates comprehensive protection, it also adversely affects usability that may confuse those not up to speed with the latest security terminology.