Saturday, 09 October 2010 20:37

LinkScanner ensures AVG 2011 isn't your average security suite


The 2011 versions of AVG's free and paid security suites have arrived, set to further cement AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition's popularity, propel LinkScanner into greater use on PCs and Macs, increase retail sales of AVG's 2011 Internet Security and new PC tune-up software while convincing more users of the free editions to upgrade to paid versions. AVG's future looks well above average!

Having used its AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition to help turn AVG into a well-known Internet security company with 110 million users, AVG has built itself into a solid security company with products for consumers and businesses alike, and even recently branched out into providing LinkScanner for the Mac platform, showing just how popular Apple's platform is becoming.

While many people will be attracted to AVG because of its AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition, AVG has built up a solid base of paying subscribers who have come to trust AVG from its free products, or who have succumbed to its encouragements to upgrade to the full Internet Security offering - which is no bad thing considering it adds a better firewall to the equation than Windows itself offers.

AVG's 2011 range of products has now arrived, and as you'd expect, AVG is touting the faster and easier installation of its products, an improved and streamlined interface with a new one click 'Fix' button, faster scanning speeds, an improved LinkScanner experience that now scans links on the FaceBook and MySpace social networking sites, new protection technologies harnessed through AVG's 'cloud', an improved firewall, an optional new PC tune-up component with one free tune-up included and more.

The shared new interface of AVG's various 2011 products is an enhanced and streamlined version of the previous interface, and while it isn't as snazzy or informative as that of Norton Internet Security 2011, it lets you clearly see the status of and configure each security component, update the software manually as desired, perform manual scans on demand and click an easy one-click 'Fix' button when things are out-of-date or need your attention.

Naturally AVG claims improved security for its Anti-Virus and Internet Security products, and once releases its test for the security industry's 2011 range of products, we'll know how accurate AVG's claims are, but we'd certainly expected all of the companies in question to have better 2011 products than their 2010 versions, and it will certainly be news if this isn't the case for any of them. 

Using AVG 2011 Internet Security is quite similar to previous versions. Installation is done with only 5 clicks, which compares with more than twice as many clicks required for the previous version, but it still takes a few minutes for the software to install.

This is in stark contrast to Norton Internet Security 2011 which installs in about a minute, but seeing as installation of such software is something you'll likely do but once a year, the longer installation time ultimately makes little difference.

AVG has introduced a new PC Tune-up component. This move into PC utilities is slightly different from competitors. Included in even the AVG Anti-Virus Free edition, the PC Tune-up component offers to scan your PC for registry errors, broken shortcuts, defragmentation and other errors.

If it finds any, which is effectively a given, you can download the PC Tune-up component and have it tune-up your computer one-time for free. However if you want 12 months of unlimited tune-up, you'll need to buy the PC-Tune up application which costs AUD $38.39 for one computer, for $57.59 for a 3-user license.

It's a way for AVG to earn more money from its users, be they free or paid, and is a smart move on its behalf, broadening its software range and income potential, while offering PC users a tune-up capability.

What else is new in AVG's 2011 range? Please read on to page two!

AVG Anti-Virus paid and Free Edition users don't have access to AVG Internet Security's firewall, but Internet Security users do, and if so you'll notice that little pop-up notifications occur when a new program accesses the Internet for the first time, with AVG's automatic permission, unless it has a concern, in which case a window appears to ask what sort of network access you want to grant that program.

This only happened once with a bandwidth metering program I'm testing, with the rest of the notifications being short, quick pop-ups above the taskbar and clock area, noting that such-and-such a program had been added to the list and was being given Internet access, with those pop-ups then descending to get out of the way.

These notifications quickly pass, however, as AVG learns what is on your system and ceases notifying you until new software is installed and requests access to the Internet, upon which you see a notification window again.

What all users do get access to is LinkScanner. Unlike the web link blacklists that Norton and McAfee use which are scanned at several hour intervals or daily, AVG's LinkScanner is a real-time solution when simply browsing the web in general, clicking from page to page or entering addresses, and when searching the Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines.

The fact AVG's link scanning technology operates in real time is crucially important. As all the Internet Security companies remind us in their security surveys and reports, malware writing online criminals from Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere are now targeting parts of popular websites to catch out users who place trust in big, 'safe' web sites.

Sure, there will always be pr0n and warez/cracks/keygen/movie download sites that will be infected with malware threats up the wazoo to catch the unwary and unprotected, but online criminals want to target as many general users as possible - not simply those who frequent pr0n or illegal download sites.

Thus the online criminals search for vulnerabilities in 'safe' sites such as those from newspapers, businesses, banks, government and others. Once any such vulnerabilities are discovered, individual pages within sites can be compromised so that the end-user, when visiting the infected page, is probed by the altered page code to see if that user has any unpatched vulnerabilities in their operating system or other software.

If such end-user vulnerabilities are discovered, they can be immediately and silently exploited to load malware onto the unsuspecting end-user's PC. This is usually a Windows PC, where the vast majority of threats are targeted, and can cause and end-users PC to have data, privacy, money and identity stolen and their PC used as part of a larger botnet.

LinkScanner scans the link you've clicked on after you've clicked it and before the results are sent back to your computer, LinkScanner can see, in real time, whether that site has any infected code, or not.

If there are threats, LinkScanner informs you and you can choose whether to still visit that site or not, although not visiting it will be strongly recommended. 

LinkScanner works even though online criminals are targeting sites for very short periods of time, sometimes minutes, sometimes a few hours, and then disappearing, because it scans in real time, unlike twice daily blacklist tests of sites that can provide dangerously out of date information.

A real-time link scanning system is the only way to provide true, up-to-the-nanosecond protection and information about the site you're about to visit, and AVG is unique in providing this.

While AVG hopes you will buy its Internet Security or Anti-Virus software or to become a user of its Anti-Virus Free Edition to get this benefit, LinkScanner is actually available as a free stand-alone product for both PC and Mac users, with PC users able to download the software here, and Mac users here.

The review concludes on page three, please read on!

It's great to see a Mac version which will help Mac users detect sites with Mac specific threats in real time - and free, to boot, although no doubt AVG has paid Mac products planned for the future and is using LinkScanner free for Mac in the same way it used AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition on PCs - to build up market recognition and to translate this into future sales.

LinkScanner works seamlessly with Norton, McAfee's and 'other' major competing security suites, but interestingly and clearly strategically won't install if you have Microsoft's free Security Essentials software installed, claiming conflicts and urging you to uninstall Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE).

Online reports suggest that MSE can be uninstalled so that LinkScanner can be installed, after which MSE can be re-installed (likely with a reboot or two in between) with no apparent conflicts, but given the Microsoft free Security Essentials competes with AVGs own free software, it's unsurprising to see AVG encouraging Microsoft users to switch to its product instead.

If you do use LinkScanner with Norton or McAfee, I'd suggest you turn Norton and McAfee's equivalent 'Safe web' link checking software off since AVGs is better.

And no matter which anti-virus and Internet Security software you choose to use, whether free or paid, I'd also suggest adding a third layer of security in the form of TrustDefender, which protects your Internet banking transactions from known and unknown banking malware, something that is now incredibly sophisticated and able to get past some Internet security suites, although none as yet have been able to get past a TrustDefender protected system.

With blended threats being so common for PCs, blended security solutions on Windows PCs that actually do work seamlessly together despite being from different companies is a good idea, and the combination of any of the popular Internet security suites (be it AVG or otherwise, AVG's LinkScanner and TrustDefender is one I'd recommend for PC users.

In conclusion, AVG's latest 2011 range of security products is a welcome update, with AVG Anti-Virus Free set to be as popular as ever, while AVG will undoubtedly continue selling plenty of paid licenses to consumers, business and other customers.

AVG Internet Security 2011 is a solid competitor to Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky and the others, with the rankings soon to determine which fares best in its latest tests, and even though I think AVG needs to completely overhaul its 2012 interface to better compete with the market leading Norton Internet Security 2011 and Norton 360 interfaces.

While AVG Anti-Virus Free edition is, of course, free, and can be downloaded here, AVG's Internet Security 2011 costs AUD $69.99 for a 1-user 12-month license, and AUD $88.50 for a 3-user 12-month license, with this price competitive with competing suites.

The paid version of AVG Anti-Virus is slightly cheaper with the firewall-equipped Internet Security version being the way to go for new users.

So, if you've already got an Internet Security suite with a while to go before expiry and aren't sure if you'd switch anyway, you can still check out AVG's free LinkScanner software, and if you're looking for a free anti-virus solution, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is a solid competitor to other free alternatives including Microsoft's own.



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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