Product Reviews: Avira Premium Security Suite

Supplier: Avira
Price: EUR39.95 (c£27)

Avira, a European anti-virus vendor, will probably be a name new to manyPC users in the UK. Not so in Germany and Austria, where it is atop-five AV vendor. Its Premium Security Suite is, as you might guess, asecurity software bundle. However, it comprises just two elements:AntiVir anti-virus and a firewall.

It doesn't offer protection against adware, spyware, rogue diallers,phishing or spam. Still, at less than £30 for a 12-month licenceit's not expensive, and for another £7 you can also buy the mobileedition for pocket PC and Symbian smartphones. Note that a WindowsVista-compatible version won't be available until April.

Installation is simple. You download the package and install theprovided product key to give you access to updates, which takes just afew minutes. Installation is guided by a step-by-step wizard, afterwhich a reboot was required. Several updates incidentally requiredsystem reboots. A 30-day demo version is available for most products, asis a "free for personal use" version of AntiVir.

AntiVir provides the usual AV protection: a real-time monitor plus asystem scanner, which you can schedule, although this is not turned onby default. Updates are provided on a daily basis, but AntiVir placesmore reliance on its advanced heuristic techniques to detect virus-likeactions. It runs well as it is, but more detailed configuration optionsare hidden away in "expert mode", a tick-box option that's easy tooverlook. One potentially useful feature is AntiVir's ability to excludeup to a dozen processes from on-access scanning. So, for example, it canpeacefully co-exist with a spyware scanner. It's capable of scanning 30different compressed and archive types. Pre-defined scanning profilesare available or you can create your own.

After detection a pop-up prompts you to repair infected files,quarantine them, delete them or delete only if repair fails. Uponinsertion of a USB memory stick it successfully detected an executablecontaining the HotWebBar Trojan.

Avira uses few system resources, making it a good choice for oldercomputers. It runs just five services and has minimal memoryrequirements.

AntiVir ticks all the right boxes when it comes to labs-based testing,earning for example, its eighth VB100 award in December. It's also beenawarded an ICSA Labs certification and an 'Advanced+' award three timesin 2006 by AC-Comparatives. To pass the tests administered by theselabs, an anti-virus utility must, among other things, stop all virusesknown to exist in the wild, on demand and on access.

A bigger threat comes from very new viruses that spread quickly acrossthe internet. Here, the speed of reaction by AV vendors and theirperformance across all known malware is perhaps more relevant. AV-Testtested more than 30 products against almost 300,000 malware samples, atruly comprehensive test. Only five products scored over 99%, in order,WebWasher, AntiVir, AVK 2007, AVK 2006 and Symantec. And WebWasher isbased on the AntiVir engine. So AntiVir, a relative unknown in the UK,did surprisingly well, a testament to its macrovirus and Win32 Fileheuristic detection system.

Avira's firewall offers good protection, certainly better than XP'sbuilt-in firewall. At its most basic it prevents any program trying toaccess the internet from doing so. Unlike its rivals, it doesn't performan initial sweep to automatically register and clear certainapplications for internet access. This means that every program thattries to access the web requires approval or denial - even the Avira AVupdater has to be approved the first time it updates. By default yourresponse, allow or deny, is remembered for that application.

However, by the standards of its rivals, this is fairly crude. Forexample, the firewall in Norton Internet Security 2007 automaticallydecides which programs to allow and those to block, rather than pesterthe end-user.

AntiVir Premium Security may be fleet of foot, but one side effect ofthis is the absence of bells and whistles, so the product is definitelynot as smart as some of its rivals and as a result demands a fair amountof user intervention. Its user interface is not as slick either, whichmakes it a bit more awkward to use. The updating process can be a bitslow and AntiVir MailGuard doesn't integrate directly with your emailclient, instead scanning attachments upon detachment. There were a few,trivial, localisation issues. German text crops up here and there, aswell as some imperfect translations; the buttons labelled "reduce"actually mean "less detail". More significantly, technical support isn'tfree; the standard office-hours support adds 20 per cent to the purchaseprice, while 24/7 support costs 30 per cent for orders over EUR5000. Auser forum is provided, but many of the posts are in German. There is nolive chat.

Features: ***
Ease of use: ****
Performance: *****
Support: ***
Documentation: ***
Value for money: *****
Overall Rating: ****

For: A light, fast, effective and cheap solution with goodheuristics

Against: Not a comprehensive security suite. Tech support is extra

Verdict: A small footprint anti-virus product that relies on itsadvanced heuristics to detect new viruses well before other products do.

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