Avast Internet Security 2016
The typical security suite integrates, antivirus, firewall, and antispam, often accompanied by additional features like encryption or parental control. Avast Internet Security sticks with the basics, simply adding antispam and firewall protection to the features of Avast’s standalone antivirus. The firewall is decent, but the spam filter failed to impress.
At $39.99 per year or $59.99 for three licenses, Avast’s price is on the low end. It has come down in price since last year, when it cost $49.99 for one license and $69.99 for three. Both of our Editors’ Choice security suites cost $20 more per year for three licenses. Based on my testing, that’s $20 well spent.
There’s one more security tier, Avast Premier 2016, which costs $59.99 for one license or $89.99 for three. However, the only difference between Premier and the entry-level suite is the addition of a secure deletion shredder and a full automatic software updater.
There’s almost no visible difference between this suite and Avast Pro Antivirus 2016, and the antivirus protection it offers is precisely the same. I’ll briefly summarize here; for full details, please read my review of the standalone antivirus.
Avast Internet Security 2016 Lab Tests Chart Avast Internet Security 2016 Malware Blocking Chart Avast Internet Security 2016 Antiphishing Chart
All of the independent testing labs that I follow include Avast in their collection of tested products. West Coast Labs and ICSA Labs certify Avast for virus detection. Avast participated in 11 of the latest 12 tests by Virus Bulletin, and received VB100 certification in nine of those. AndDennis Technology Labs awarded it AA certification, the second-best of five certification levels.
Avast earned a total of 16 points in AV-Test Institute‘s three-part evaluation; the maximum possible score is 18 points. In four tests byAV-Comparatives, Avast rated Advanced+ (the top rating) in three and Advanced in the fourth.
In my own hands-on malware blocking test, Avast detected 100 percent of the samples, a first for this particular sample collection. Its score of 9.3 points puts it in a tie with Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 for top spot. Tested with my previous malware collection, Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus (2015) also detected 100 percent and scored a perfect 10.
Avast displayed a decent 69 percent protection rate in my malicious URL blocking test. That’s well above the current average of 42 percent. The very best score in this test is 91 percent protection, a feat shared byMcAfee Internet Security (2016) and Symantec Norton Security Premium.
Avast also did well in my antiphishing test, which uses very new URLs that have been reported as frauds but not yet verified. Its detection rate lagged just 1 percentage point behind Norton’s, the same score asKaspersky Internet Security (2016) got. Only Bitdefender has done better than Norton in this test.
See How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests
See How We Test Malware Blocking
See How We Test Antiphishing
Other Shared Features
This suite shares a number of features with Avast’s antivirus and withAvast Free Antivirus 2016. These include a boot-time scan, a bootable Rescue Disk, and a browser cleanup scan that reports any disreputable add-ons. The network scan checks all devices on your network and reports router configuration errors, with instructions to fix them. A cleanup scan finds possibilities for system optimization, but actually performing the fixes requires a separate purchase. And clicking Smart Scan runs all available scans.
A password manager is integrated into all of Avast’s 2016 product line. It does the basic job of capturing and replaying credentials for secure websites but doesn’t have the high-end features of dedicated password managers.
Present in the paid edition but not in the free one, the SafeZone browser protects your financial transactions against any interference by other processes. In testing, it prevented a keylogger from capturing keystrokes or screen images, but didn’t protect the contents of the clipboard. Its SafePrice component looks for bargain when it detects you’re shopping online. It also includes ad blocking and a video download tool.
Also paid-only, the Sandbox lets you run suspect programs without risking permanent system damage, and the Secure DNS component prevents malware from hijacking your connection to the Domain Name System. These two features may be too advanced for the average user.
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam…
On top of what you get from the standalone antivirus, Avast Internet Security adds antispam and firewall protection. The spam filter marks up incoming POP3 email messages by adding SPAM or PHISHING to the message headers. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, it takes care of diverting those unwanted messages to the Junk E-Mail folder. Those using a different email client will need to create a message rule.
Settings for the spam filter are pleasantly simple. You can choose a low, medium, or high sensitivity level—I left it at the default medium level for testing. As with many spam filters, Avast lets you define a whitelist of senders who will always get through to you and a blacklist of senders who will always be blocked. Most users won’t need to make any changes to the handful of other settings.
Avast Internet Security 2016 Antispam Chart
To check the spam filter’s accuracy, I downloaded thousands of messages from a real-world account that gets plenty of spam and valid messages. After discarding any messages more than 30 days old, I sorted the Inbox into valid personal mail, valid newsletters, and undeniable spam. If a message didn’t clearly match one of those categories, I tossed it. I performed the same triage on the Junk E-Mail folder and then used the numbers to calculate Avast’s accuracy.
The results weren’t good. Avast let almost 38 percent of undeniable spam into the inbox. That’s a lot of male-enhancement ads and Russian bride messages to wade through! It also threw out 0.5 percent of valid personal mail—a small number, but tossing any valid mail is a bad thing. Bitdefender and Trend Micro Internet Security 2016 discarded just 0.1 percent of valid mail and missed 1.8 and 3.9 percent of spam respectively.
See How We Test Antispam
Avast’s firewall passed all my port scan tests and other Web-based tests. Given that the built-in Windows Firewall does the same, these tests only become relevant when a firewall doesn’t pass.
By default, the firewall automatically decides how to handle programs that request access to the network or Internet, creating a rule that determines each program’s permissions, but you can change this behavior. If you choose Block, any program that doesn’t already have a defined rule will be denied access. Choosing Allow is a bad idea, as it effectively turns off program control. For an old-school experience, choosing Ask causes Avast to ask you how to handle each new program. And you can configure these options separately for public and private networks.
For testing purposes, I set it to ask me about unknown programs and then launched a tiny browser that I wrote myself. Interestingly, the popup query let me do more than just allow or block access. I had the option to limit access to predefined local networks (called friends), allow inbound access from friends, permit outbound Internet access, add inbound friends access to outbound Internet, or just allow any connection whatsoever. Outbound Internet access is the default, and most users will stick with that.
Next, I hit the firewall with about 30 exploits generated by the CORE Impact penetration tool. The firewall doesn’t appear to block exploit attacks at the network level. A few of the exploit links failed to load, but I didn’t find anything in the firewall logs matching those events. The antivirus wiped out the executable payload for more than half of the exploit attacks, which is better than many. Norton wiped out every exploit at the network level; it’s the big winner in this test.
My testing suggests that malware coders won’t manage to disable the firewall by direct attack. I couldn’t terminate either of its two processes, and its Registry settings are protected against change. When I tried to stop its two Windows services, it generated a popup warning that protection was about to stop, and asking whether I intended to do that. That user confirmation requirement means a malicious program couldn’t stop the services.
It’s a decent firewall, and it holds up to attack. However, it doesn’t compare with high-powered firewall components like what you get with Norton and Kaspersky.
Minuscule Performance Impact
The days of security suites bogging down system performance are pretty much gone. Users wouldn’t stand for it! Oh, there’s always some effect, but for most suites it ranges from tiny to small. Based on my hands-on tests, Avast is definitely on the tiny end of that spectrum.
On-access antivirus scanning means that the antivirus has to keep an eye on file activities. This monitoring could potentially put the brakes on simple file operations, but Avast demonstrated no such problem. A lengthy script that moves and copies a large collection of files between drives took the same amount of time (averaging 10 tries) with Avast running as with no suite. Another script that zips and unzips that same file collection took just 5 percent longer under Avast’s care.
Avast Internet Security 2016 Performance Chart
To measure boot time, I run a script that checks CPU usage once per second, stopping after 10 seconds in a row with no more than 5 percent CPU usage. Subtracting the start of the boot process (as reported by Windows) gives me the time required by the boot process. Averaging 100 runs with no suite and 100 with Avast loading at startup, I found that this process took 12 percent longer with Avast loaded. Given that most of us reboot no more than once per day, this just isn’t going to be a bother.
See How We Test Security Suites for Performance
Low Cost, but…
Avast Free Antivirus 2016 is an Editors’ Choice for free antivirus. The paid antivirus adds a hardened browser, a sandbox component, and protection against DNS hijacking. Avast Internet Security 2016 adds a decent firewall and a not-so-hot spam filter, and doesn’t put a drag on system performance. And it costs less than most suites. It can be a decent choice, as long as you don’t actually need spam filtering.
For a standard, entry-level security suite, Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 and Kaspersky Internet Security (2016) are our Editors’ Choice products. If you’re looking for a feature-packed mega-suite, our Editors’ Choice is Bitdefender Total Security 2016. And if need to protect many devices of various types, look to McAfee LiveSafe or Symantec Norton Security Premium, our Editors’ Choice products for cross-platform protection. You’ll spend a bit more on any of these, but they’re worth every penny.