Review: Avast 7 Public Beta

Avast 7 Beta SecurityInternet security vendor Avast! recently released a public beta version of its 2012 software, Avast 7. You can download Avast Free, Avast Pro and Avast Internet Security from the official beta announcement thread in the Avast forum.  The free download runs to 94.8MB.

It comes with a brand new installer and although Avast notes that the beta versions can be installed over existing Avast 6 installations, forum users are having better luck un-installing versions 5 and 6 and putting on the Beta 7 to a clean system.

Choose the Express Installer and you get the Chrome browser without so much as a by your leave! How does a browser form a component of Avast?! Cheeky devils! The Beta also goes a bit over the top creating a Desktop icon, a desktop gadget and a notification icon in the Systray. No ignoring this one!
Avast 7 Beta Auto Sandbox optionsThe custom installer provides for a typical, minimal or custom setup of the security software, which will selectively block modules you do not want to use, useful if those modules are not needed or interfere with other security software installed on your system.

Avast 7 Beta is compatible with all recent 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows up to the Windows 8 Developer Preview on which I’m running it. The program interface has undergone an extensive facelift. Fire up the glossy graphical front-end and you’ll find a seemingly endless set of tabs – Summary, Scan Computer, Real-Time Shields, Firewall being just a few – down the left sidebar.

  • Protect Avast with a password.
  • Silent gaming mode
  • Avast 7 Beta TroubleshootingLinking to the Avast Community
  • Avast Auto-Sandbox for quarantining suspicious applications
  • Browser protection, using the Webrep phishing filter
  • Remote assistance
  • Site blocking on a selective basis
  • cloud based reputation service which improves the decision making process of the program.
  • Streaming updates
  • Remote assistance feature to help your friends with computer troubles
  • The Avast market – additional commercial services which Avast hopes to up-sell you

Avast 7 Beta Real Time Shields summaryThat’s just the highlights. Fortunately it also has some useful summary screens, such as the Real-Time Shields screen which displays visual information about each security module. Real-time protection crosses all aspects of a system vulnerable to attack  – File System, Mail, Web filtering, P2P and Instant Message scanning, Network checks, Scripts and Behavioural Monitoring, as well as the firewall.

Avast’s Auto Sandbox feature may be the silver bullet if Avast gets the detection process right; it puts suspicious processes automatically into a sandbox to prevent them infecting or otherwise damaging other programs and files.

All the Avast 7 editions are hooked up with push technologies via the cloud, users getting streaming updates as new malware is discovered throughout the day, and a file reputation look-up service. The streamed data accumulates to the local database of updates on maintaining protection regardless of the internet connection.

Can we say that the Remote Assistance option in all editions is entirely a good idea? Connect to and share desktops with other Avast users, from within a security program? It may be better than simply monitoring standalone remote desktop applications; when we have some objective benchmarks, we’ll come back to this.

Avast Beta 7 ScanNot everyone is liking this new version. Common complaints include ‘too many useless social integrations and news/message center’ and grumblings about the ‘fetish of shiny graphics.’ Functionally it appears to perform well; a full system scan took 35 minutes for 25GB of data on an unsightly, hacked around version of Windows 8 with no false positives.

As this is a Beta version, Avast advises not to run it in a production environment. Among the known issues for this version:

  • WebRep Chrome plugin may not install correctly
  • Safezone browser is opening each time when you switch in and out of the Safezone
  • Plugins for Outlook 2k3 and 2k7 show “runtime error” message
  • Autosandbox ‘toaster’ not always closing correctly
  • Sounds not working consistently on Windows 7 and Vista
  • Remote assistance sometimes crashes on Windows 7 32-bit or Windows Vista 64-bit
  • Avast! account functionality is disabled

So far, the Avast 7 Beta is proving a competent security product as its predecessors have been. A little while of live running should provide some solid experience ton which to make a verdict. AJS

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