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Level 64

Real-time Protection
For some antivirus products, the minimal file access that occurs when Windows Explorer displays the filename is sufficient to trigger real-time protection. Avast waits until just before a program executes to run a real-time scan. In testing, it wiped out almost 80 percent of my malware samples immediately on launch.

Avast detected most of the remaining samples at some point as they attempted to install and run. In a couple of cases, it activated a powerful analysis tool called DeepScan. Avast also invoked DeepScan to make sure that a couple of my malware-testing programs weren't themselves malicious.

In one case, fortunately the last sample I tested, Avast requested a boot time scan for complete cleanup. That scan took almost an hour, and required my attention every so often to make decisions about the disposition of particular malware traces. You can launch a boot time scan at will, if you suspect the regular scan has missed something.

One way or another, Avast detected 93 percent of my samples, the same asF-Secure Anti-Virus 2015. However, because Avast allowed installation of some executable malware traces, its final score came out to 9.0 points, while F-Secure managed 9.3. The absolute winner among products tested with this sample set is Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2015), which earned 10 of 10 possible points.

Avast's previous edition was among the first products exposed to my malicious URL blocking test. For many, many months, its 79 percent blocking rate stood as the very best score in this test. More recently, several products have surpassed that score. At present,McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2015, with 85 percent blocking, is at the top. The current edition of Avast blocked 72 percent of the malicious downloads, which is still quite good.

Okay Phishing Protection
Avast's 2014 edition blocked 69 percent of those malicious downloads by completely preventing access to the URL. The 2015 edition blocked just 29 percent at the URL level. Its success rate at detecting and blocking fraudulent (phishing) websites was about the same.

As always, I exposed five test systems to a collection of very new suspected phishing URLs. Avast protected one test system, while antiphishing champ Norton managed another. The other three relied on built-in phishing protection in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. Since the precise collection of URLs is different for every test, I report on the product's success relative to the other test systems.

Avast's blocking rate lagged 25 percentage points behind Norton's, which puts it almost precisely in the middle of recently tested products. It lagged 22 points behind Firefox, and 23 points behind Chrome. Yes, Avast beat Internet Explorer's SmartScreen Filter, but almost every product beats IE. The only recent exception is ThreatTrack Vipre Antivirus 2015.

Innovative, but…
I'm a big fan of the new network-scanning component. Router security is definitely important, but nobody else seems to be doing anything about it. However, this nifty new feature isn't sufficient to put Avast at the top.

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