2012 security software updates

Just as the automakers announce their new offerings every fall, so do the major security software publishers. In recent days, I have seen announcements and promotions for the 2012 offerings from Kaspersky, AVG, Panda, and TrendMicro. 2012 editions from McAfee and Norton may be available by the time that you read this. With each new model year, just like the automakers, the computer security software companies typically offer more features and improved performance.

The feisty European company AVG, best known for its enormously popular free antivirus software, has released 2012 versions of its free product, AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2012, as well as its commercial products, AVG Anti-Virus 2012, AVG Internet Security 2012 and AVG Premium Security 2012. The free version of AVG Anti-virus 2012 is the latest iteration of its antivirus utility used by tens of millions of users worldwide. The free AVG is unusual among free security software in that it also provides free 24/7 technical support. The only significant differences between the “free” antivirus and the commercial AVG Anti-Virus 2012 (besides the price) is that the commercial product offers scanned downloads and priority technical support.

 The AVG Internet Security 2012 offers comprehensive protection from the threats most likely encountered on the Internet, including protection from viruses and spyware. Some interesting features of this edition are “AVG Accelerator,” which maximizes the speed of the Internet connection, delivering improved online performance. AVG System Tools is a PC monitor that allows the user to easily control the Windows start-up and auto-run functions, which can greatly improve boot time and operating speed by preventing unnecessary processes and programs from loading at boot. The integrated System Monitor shows which processes are running at any given time, allowing the user to control what is currently running, which may provide enhanced performance as well as security benefits. One of the most important security features, often overlooked by users with more basic protection, is a firewall, and this software incorporates the AVG Enhanced Firewall. This firewall intelligently monitors the online connection from malicious attack and intrusions and blocks unauthorized access from the outside to the computer, as well as blocks any unauthorized information (such as private information and files) from being sent (outbound) from your computer to cyber thieves. The AVG Enhanced Firewall protects and secures both wired and wireless home networks.

 Identity theft is a problem of endemic proportions, and the AVG Identity Protection feature provides extensive online protection from identity theft by monitoring the computer for anything that may potentially be an identity threat, and neutralizes the threat before any private information is sent to identity thieves.

 While the traditional function of computer security software has been to protect against viruses, the AVG Internet Security 2012 does that and much more. While computer viruses still exist, they are greatly overshadowed by the more common (and dangerous) spyware and other malware products. AVG offers a multi-layered defense against all of these types of threats, starting with its well respected and highly rated antivirus engine. This first layer of protection uses the traditional detection method of matching files and other data to a frequently updated database of known threat signatures. A second level of protection is provided by the anti-spyware function, which protects the computer from spyware and adware that can track and disseminate the users’ personal information. Another level of protection is provided by AVG Resident Shield, which rapidly scans any files for threats as they are copied, saved, or opened, which will prevent the user from inadvertently opening an infected file. Much has been said in the media about “cloud technology” where many computers are connected to a distant server for the rapid propagation of data and other information; AVG Protective Cloud Technology identifies new threats “in the cloud,” and protects the computer from infection or attack from emerging threats, in effect providing very rapid updates to the AVG software. This cloud feature works in conjunction with the AVG Community Protection Network, which collects information about the latest threats encountered by its users (but only with the users’ expressed consent!), helping AVG to indentify and quantify new threats as they first appear. This community based level of protection allows AVG engineers to quickly develop methods for detection and elimination of new threats as they appear, which benefits not just the AVG community members, but all AVG users.

 One of the major advantages of this new crop of 2012 security software is enhanced performance, regardless of what applications are being run on the computer. AVG Internet Security 2012 allows the user to game or surf without interruptions, as the automated security scans only take place when the PC is not in use. If the user is a gamer and currently gaming, the AVG security software quietly provides the appropriate level of security in the background so as not to interfere or otherwise hinder the gaming. Another performance improvement is provided by AVG Smart Scanning which intelligently varies the scanning priorities based on the utilization of the PC. When the PC is idle for prolonged periods of time, AVG performs its background comprehensive security scanning in a high-priority mode which uses all available processing power in order to quickly perform a scan; if the PC is being used (instantly detected by mouse movement or a keystroke), the scan is performed as a low-priority process only using computer power not being utilized by other applications, thus not degrading performance. Another feature of Smart Scanning is that it ignores rescanning unaltered files that had been previously scanned and determined as safe, greatly increasing the speed and reducing the time of subsequent scans.

AVG offers the user the selection of services at a variety of prices ranging from free for the basic AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2012, to $39.99 for AVG Anti-Virus 2012, to $54.99 for the AVG Internet Security 2012, to the top-of-the-line AVG Premium Security 2012 for $69.99 (all prices are for annual subscriptions). The big box, office supply, warehouse, and electronics stores, both brick and mortar and online, often have the commercial security products at discounted prices, sometimes with high value rebates approaching “free after rebate.” It is up to the user to personally determine the level of protection and related services desired, as well as the price that he is willing to pay, but my personal choice and recommendation is to get the maximum amount of protection. AVG is fully capable of meeting these needs.

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