Avira Premium Security Suite
At a Glance
The Avira Premium Security Suite does a great job of detecting malicious software--arguably a security suite's most important task. But it doesn't do much else. Its firewall didn't completely protect our Vista test PC, for example, and the suite entirely lacks such features as Web antiphishing measures and parental controls.
Avira did shine at blocking security threats in our "All-in-One Security Suites: Tried and Tested" roundup of security suites. It halted 98 percent of the 674, 589 samples in AV-Test.org's zoo of malicious software, just a hair behind the top performer, BitDefender Internet Security 2008. It also did well at identifying unknown malware in tests that pit programs with one-month-old virus databases against new malware such as Trojan horses and keyloggers. It caught 21 percent of such threats, again second only to BitDefender.
Another high point was Avira's record at detecting spyware and adware, where it proved second to none, identifying 97 percent of such malicious files. It was fast, too: Only Symantec Norton Internet Security 2008 beat out Avira's scan rate of 10.33 megabytes per second for user-initiated scans. Regrettably, Avira's scanning lacked scope: It doesn't scan IM traffic at all, and it checks only inbound e-mail messages over the POP3 protocol.
Tthe Avira suite was less effective at cleanup, removing just 40 percent of files and Registry entries introduced by malware.
Avira's firewall showed signs of weakness, too. It was only one of two suites (the other being CheckPoint's ZoneAlarm Internet SecuritySuite 7.1) to leave open a port or communications channel of a protected test PC to outside scanning. And it didn't entirely hide the closed ports either. Avira says that the lack of protection was due to a bug involving certain network hardware we used, and it is releasing a fix in its next software update to correct the problem.
In any case, you'll have to deal with a slew of unhelpful pop-ups from the firewall asking whether it should allow programs to connect to the Internet. In one such pop-up--which lacked any sort of recommendation--the firewall asked whether it should allow Internet Explorer. It should know better.
The suite's antispam component likewise lacks polish and doesn't include direct tie-ins (such as a 'mark as spam' button) to any e-mail programs, so you'll have to use Avira's interface to 'train' the filter. But at least the suite has an antispam element. By contrast, Avira lacks any Web-based antiphishing features, though it will look for phishing e-mail messages.
You won't find any parental controls either, but the company says that it plans to add the feature next year, along with file backup.
Avira uses a tabbed interface that inconveniently hides many program settings behind an 'expert mode'. If you try to configure something deemed expert--for example, anything in the MailGuard anti-spam tab--you'll be prompted to activate expert mode. It's not a bad design overall, but it could be smoother. I'd start by combining some of the ten different tabs--say, Guard, MailGuard, and WebGuard (scanning http traffic for viruses). Unlike every other suite except McAfee Internet Security Suite, Avira doesn't let you resize the program window.
Pop-up virus warnings differ from those issued by the firewall in being generally clear. But right now, you'll see multiple alerts for the same threat because of an annoying program bug. The company says that a fix is in the works.
Overall, Avira's suite proved highly effective at the central task of virus blocking. But its lack of features makes it more of an antivirus plus program than a full-fledged suite.