Antivirus

Ransomware tests local governments

Ransomware is a big business for criminals and painfully expensive for companies. More and more cities and local governments around the world have become a hot target, with hackers shutting down government services, hospitals, blue light services, schools and universities. These types of attacks have been notable in the United States and in the last 10…


Ransomware is a big business for criminals and painfully expensive for companies. More and more cities and local governments around the world have become a hot target, with hackers shutting down government services, hospitals, blue light services, schools and universities. 

These types of attacks have been notable in the United States and in the last 10 months alone 140 local governments, police stations and hospitals have been held hostage by ransomware attacks, despite having antivirus software and other basic protections in place. 

malware incidents, and as we venture into 2020 the trend will undoubtedly continue as hackers exploit common vulnerabilities of regional and local governments and education authorities with limited budgets

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Antivirus

Avira Prime 2020 antivirus suite

You can sign up for Avira Prime hereAvira security comes in three distinct flavours; Avira Free Security, Avira Internet Security and the focus of this review, Avira Prime.As the name implies Avira Free Security is free to download and use, the Internet Security option is the first paid level that offers a single device license.…

You can sign up for Avira Prime here

Avira security comes in three distinct flavours; Avira Free Security, Avira Internet Security and the focus of this review, Avira Prime.

As the name implies Avira Free Security is free to download and use, the Internet Security option is the first paid level that offers a single device license. Prime, reviewed here, offers licencing for five devices, VIP customer support, and free upgrades. It includes Avira’s Antivirus Pro, Password Manager Pro, Phantom VPN Pro and Software Updater Pro tools that can be licensed on their own.

Internet security costs £38.99 per annum, and Prime is currently offered at a 25% discount, down from £85.99 to just £63.99.

It is possible to pay £6.99 monthly or get more significant discounts by buying licensing for two or three years ahead.

At those prices and with all the functionality included, Avira Prime looks like a bargain. But are all the features of this product equally useful, and how does it compare to the other security suites available?

Avira Prime

Avira Prime secures, enhances and protects your privacy (Image credit: Avira)

Design

For Windows users, Avira tries to look like a single solution with a single master interface, but the functionality is split into modules that you can ignore or embrace at will.

They are grouped under three sub-sections labelled Security, Privacy and Performance.

Security includes the antivirus solution, software updater and firewall controls. Privacy is all about browser safety and includes the VPN, and Performance has all the system optimising elements that make sure your system is the best it can be.

Rather than having to navigate around these to find trouble, Avira has a top-level status screen that alerts you to potential problems, and also allows a smart scan to be run that will seek out all security, privacy and performance issues.

The Apple Mac version only contains the Antivirus and VPN technology and leaves out the maintenance, password manager and software updating features of the Windows installation.

These ommissions are also true of the Android and iOS installs, although they both contain the VPN and Password Manager.

Avira Prime

Avira Prime delivers timely analysis of your computer (Image credit: Avira)

The password manager isn’t part of the main software bundle on PC but instead operates through a browser extension. If you don’t like extensions, you can decline to have these placed on your system.

While password managers are useful, as most browsers have this functionality inbuilt, it isn’t something that is a necessity.

But these extensions aren’t the only things that come along with Avira. When we’d completed the installation and ran our first ‘smart scan’, we noticed that it found a few things it wanted to fix, including issues with Opera browser.

As we never installed Opera, this seemed odd. It turns out that Avira installs it for you, and we didn’t notice it doing that.

Avira Prime

Scanning for viruses and malware is fast and efficient (Image credit: Avira)

Antivirus

Undoubtedly one of the strongest parts of this offering is the antivirus tool. This module allows for basic quick, full, and scheduled scans in addition to having live file scanning. But if you want you can set it to scan just for rootkits or removable drives, there are lots of options.

Compared with the Windows Defender tools, Avira is quicker and less obtrusive.

Any files it doesn’t like can be quarantined or deleted, and logs of all scanning are automatically created.

We also noticed that a full Defender scan looked at about 52,000 files on our tests system, where Avira examined a whopping 3.8 million using full scan setting. And, even while it performed the full scan that took a couple of hours,  we could use the system without noticing any significant performance impact.

Our only reservation about the ‘Security’ part of this product is that it has a firewall section, and that infers that as part of Prime you get a firewall.

But when you go into the advanced settings of the firewall, it takes you to the Windows controls for the inherent Windows Defender Firewall.

What Avira allows you to do from its interface is to disable the firewall and switch it between Public and Private network modes, but the firewall is the same one built into every copy of Windows.

Avira Prime

Even while performance a full scan, the computer can still be used (Image credit: Avira)

What impressed us more was that all email is scanned, both outgoing and incoming. All this is done through the network, handling both installed desktop clients and web interfaces.

This feature is fully configurable, allowing whitelists for email addresses and custom handling of alerts. The only

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Antivirus

Avira Prime 2020 antivirus suite

No price informationCheck AmazonWe check over 130 million products every day for the best pricespowered by Avira originated more than thirty years ago, started by an electrical engineer Tjark Auerback and his business partner who formed an IT company called H+BEDV Datentechnik.Its HQ is located on the German shores of Lake Constance along with other…

No price information

Avira originated more than thirty years ago, started by an electrical engineer Tjark Auerback and his business partner who formed an IT company called H+BEDV Datentechnik.

Its HQ is located on the German shores of Lake Constance along with other offices in San Jose in the USA, Bucharest in Romania and another German site in Munich.

You can sign up for Avira Prime here

Avira security comes in three distinct flavours; Avira Free Security, Avira Internet Security and the focus of this review, Avira Prime.

As the name implies Avira Free Security is free to download and use, the Internet Security option is the first paid level that offers a single device license. Prime, reviewed here, offers licencing for five devices, VIP customer support, and free upgrades. It includes Avira’s Antivirus Pro, Password Manager Pro, Phantom VPN Pro and Software Updater Pro tools that can be licensed on their own.

Internet security costs £38.99 per annum, and Prime is currently offered at a 25% discount, down from £85.99 to just £63.99.

It is possible to pay £6.99 monthly or get more significant discounts by buying licensing for two or three years ahead.

At those prices and with all the functionality included, Avira Prime looks like a bargain. But are all the features of this product equally useful, and how does it compare to the other security suites available?

Avira Prime

Avira Prime secures, enhances and protects your privacy (Image credit: Avira)

Design

For Windows users, Avira tries to look like a single solution with a single master interface, but the functionality is split into modules that you can ignore or embrace at will.

They are grouped under three sub-sections labelled Security, Privacy and Performance.

Security includes the antivirus solution, software updater and firewall controls. Privacy is all about browser safety and includes the VPN, and Performance has all the system optimising elements that make sure your system is the best it can be.

Rather than having to navigate around these to find trouble, Avira has a top-level status screen that alerts you to potential problems, and also allows a smart scan to be run that will seek out all security, privacy and performance issues.

The Apple Mac version only contains the Antivirus and VPN technology and leaves out the maintenance, password manager and software updating features of the Windows installation.

These ommissions are also true of the Android and iOS installs, although they both contain the VPN and Password Manager.

Avira Prime

Avira Prime delivers timely analysis of your computer (Image credit: Avira)

The password manager isn’t part of the main software bundle on PC but instead operates through a browser extension. If you don’t like extensions, you can decline to have these placed on your system.

While password managers are useful, as most browsers have this functionality inbuilt, it isn’t something that is a necessity.

But these extensions aren’t the only things that come along with Avira. When we’d completed the installation and ran our first ‘smart scan’, we noticed that it found a few things it wanted to fix, including issues with Opera browser.

As we never installed Opera, this seemed odd. It turns out that Avira installs it for you, and we didn’t notice it doing that.

Avira Prime

Scanning for viruses and malware is fast and efficient (Image credit: Avira)

Antivirus

Undoubtedly one of the strongest parts of this offering is the antivirus tool. This module allows for basic quick, full, and scheduled scans in addition to having live file scanning. But if you want you can set it to scan just for rootkits or removable drives, there are lots of options.

Compared with the Windows Defender tools, Avira is quicker and less obtrusive.

Any files it doesn’t like can be quarantined or deleted, and logs of all scanning are automatically created.

We also noticed that a full Defender scan looked at about 52,000 files on our tests system, where Avira examined a whopping 3.8 million using full scan setting. And, even while it performed the full scan that took a couple of hours,  we could use the system without noticing any significant performance impact.

Our only reservation about the ‘Security’ part of this product is that it has a firewall section, and that infers that as part of Prime you get a firewall.

But when you go into the advanced settings of the firewall, it takes you to the Windows controls for the inherent Windows Defender Firewall.

What Avira allows you to do from its interface is to disable the firewall and switch it between Public and Private network modes, but the firewall is the same one built into every copy of Windows.

Avira Prime

Even while performance a full scan, the computer can still be used (Image credit: Avira)

What impressed us more was that all email is scanned, both outgoing and incoming. All this is done through the network, handling both installed desktop clients and web interfaces.

This feature is fully configurable, allowing whitelists for email addresses and custom handling of alerts. The only disappointment is that it doesn’t include any spam elimination, but it does catch more dangerous attachments, critically.

Avira Phantom VPN Pro

Forty internationally placed servers allow the Phantom VPN to mask your true location (Image credit: Avira)

Phantom VPN Pro

For many reasons have access to a VPN can be an especially useful tool, in both protecting your laptop on public Wi-Fi networks, or enabling access to regionalised content.

We often use them to see the pricing of products in different countries, as websites usually show

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Antivirus

Avira Phantom VPN

Avira Phantom VPN 1 YearUS$4,33/mthViewat AviraAvira Phantom VPN 1 MonthUS$6,99/mthViewat Avirapowered by Avira Phantom VPN is aimed very much at the novice user. The website landing page ignores almost every technical detail, and instead focuses on generic descriptions of the benefits of a VPN: anonymity, encryption and accessing geoblocked content. But dig into the small…

Avira Phantom VPN 1 Year

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Avira Phantom VPN is aimed very much at the novice user. The website landing page ignores almost every technical detail, and instead focuses on generic descriptions of the benefits of a VPN: anonymity, encryption and accessing geoblocked content. But dig into the small print, and there are some details to be found.

The network has a minimal 150 servers spread across 37 countries, for instance. There are multiple locations in North America and Europe, and more in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico and Singapore.

Check out the website here

Avira Phantom VPN makes its connections using the industry-standard OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption. That’s good, too, but there’s another ‘but’: you can’t tweak OpenVPN in any way (switch between UDP and TCP connections, for instance), and you can’t switch to another protocol, which can sometimes be useful if you can’t get connected.

Avira doesn’t mention P2P support at all on the website, as far as we could see. A quick check shows torrenting seems to be available on all servers, although as the company seems so unenthusiastic about it, Phantom VPN wouldn’t be our preferred torrent choice.

The service does have one unusual plus, with no ‘buts’ at all: you can connect to it with as many devices as you like. That’s a notable improvement on many VPNs, which typically restrict you to 5 devices, although how many people really need to connect with more than that simultaneously is open to question.

Website

You can download the free version of Avira Phantom Pro to test it out before signing up for one of the company’s paid plans (Image credit: Avira)

Plans and pricing

Whatever you think of Phantom VPN’s features, there’s a definite benefit in its free account. This has by default a crippling 500MB/month data cap (plus you get five additional free minutes after hitting the limit, before disconnection), and you’re not able to choose a location – the app automatically connects to your nearest server. Still, it doesn’t require registration or an email address: just download, install and connect. Register with your email address and you’ll get 1GB. You still won’t be able to stream anything much, but for occasional low-bandwidth use, perhaps while travelling, it might be enough.

Upgrading to a paid account gets you unlimited data, a kill switch to reduce the chance of a data leak if the VPN connection drops, and technical support to keep everything running smoothly.

The service is priced at $10 billed monthly, dropping to $6.50 if you pay for a year up-front, or $5.99 to cover Android and iOS devices only.

Buy the service this way, and it looks expensive. Private Internet Access’ annual plan ‘only’ covers up to 5 devices (mobile or desktop), but it’s much cheaper at an effective $2.85 for the first term, $3.33 on renewal.

Avira’s best deal comes in the form of its Avira Prime package, a full bundle of every application and service it sells: antivirus, internet security, password management, device cleanup and more. You can buy this for $75 in year one, so cheaper than the VPN alone, rising to a still decent $100 a year after that.

It’s a powerful package – read our full review here – and if you’re looking for a VPN and a new antivirus or security suite, getting them in a bundle like this could save you plenty of cash.

Privacy and logging

Avira Phantom VPN gets off to a good start in privacy terms with its no-registration-required free account. 

The service does a decent job of protecting your traffic with its OpenVPN protocol support, although your inability to change or tweak these in any way (choose new ports, for instance) might be an issue for experts.

Avira’s free plan doesn’t give you a kill switch, which means there’s a small chance your identity might be given away if the VPN connection drops. That’s not a problem if you upgrade, though, and the free and paid editions both give you capable DNS leak protection. We checked the desktop and mobile clients with IPLeak, DNSLeakTest and DoILeak, and found no privacy leaks of any kind.

Avira has a tiny amount of no-logging detail in its privacy policy. How tiny? This is what it says: 

‘If you use Avira Phantom VPN we do not collect any data about the web pages you visit or the services you use on the internet. The information we require for our billing system only tells us when someone was online and what data volume was utilized.’

In other words, there’s limited session logging (connect and disconnect times, data used), but the company doesn’t record any details on exactly what you’re doing online. We’d like to see this spelled out in a little more detail, but it’s still good news overall.

Avira Launcher

Avira Phantom VPN uses the standard Avira Launcher (Image credit: Avira)

Apps

Installing Avira Phantom VPN on a PC is easy, although it does have the same issue as all other Avira software: you also get the standard Avira launcher, whether you want it or not.

(There’s nothing wrong with the launcher – it’s a simple way to view and manage all your Avira products from one place – but if you’re only using Phantom VPN, it’s just not necessary.)

The launcher can be safely ignored, though, and otherwise the client looks and feels much as you would expect. Launch it from a system tray icon, and click a button to connect to the nearest VPN server, or, if you have the paid version, choose your preferred option from a list. Easy.

Windows App

This is the user interface of Avira Phantom VPN’s free Windows app (Image credit: Avira)

The location picker is relatively basic, with no ability to view servers within a country, and no Favorites system. Location ping times help choose the best server for you,

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Windows 10 May 2020 Update is bugging some users with false security warnings

Windows 10 May 2020 Update is causing problems with Windows Defender, whereby Microsoft’s built-in antivirus solution is erroneously and repeatedly flagging up potentially dodgy apps which aren’t actually on the PC at all (having been previously removed).As of the new May 2020 Update, Windows 10 by default now identifies ‘potentially unwanted applications’ (PUAs, also known…

Windows 10 May 2020 Update is causing problems with Windows Defender, whereby Microsoft’s built-in antivirus solution is erroneously and repeatedly flagging up potentially dodgy apps which aren’t actually on the PC at all (having been previously removed).

As of the new May 2020 Update, Windows 10 by default now identifies ‘potentially unwanted applications’ (PUAs, also known as PUPs – ‘potentially unwanted programs’), and deals with them, which is all well and good in theory. However, the problem is that when you run a scan with Windows Defender, it’s continually picking up on PUAs which have already been dealt with.

  • Is Windows Defender good enough for your PC?
  • This is what Microsoft has killed off with the May 2020 Update
  • We solve 100 common Windows 10 problems

complaints which have appeared on Microsoft’s Answers.com support forum (as spotted by Windows Latest),

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