So-so Malware Blocking
Last year Avira earned an impressive score in my hands-on malware blocking test, with 97 percent detection and 9.7 of 10 possible points. Not this year.
When I opened a folder containing my current collection of malware samples, Avira wiped out 72 percent immediately. That's good, but Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015 at BitDefender, F-Secure Anti-Virus 2015, and ThreatTrack Vipre Antivirus 2015 all managed 83 percent.
I also tested Avira using hand-modified versions of the same sample set. For each file, I changed the name, appended nulls to change the file size, and tweaked some non-executable characters. Avira missed three of the tweaked files. However, it detected another two tweaked files whose originals it missed. I can't explain that.
After launching all of the remaining samples, I evaluated how well Avira handled them. Overall, it detected 76 percent of the malware samples and scored 7.4 points, quite a drop from last year.
Good Malicious URL Blocking
In the real world, you're more likely to encounter a brand-new malware attack via a malicious or compromised website, so I test for that ability as well. I start with a feed of newly-discovered malicious URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas. After filtering out those that don't point directly to malicious executables, I try loading each one in a browser to see what (if anything) the antivirus will do.
Quite a few of the URLs were already defunct, despite being no more than four hours old. I tested 100 valid ones and then ran the numbers. Avira didn't block any malicious URLs, but it wiped out 34 percent of the malicious payloads during the download process. In several cases, it did so silently; I had to check the logs to verify its success.
It turns out, though, that I wasn't seeing Avira's full range of features. The Browser Safety plugin installs in Chrome and Firefox, but not in Internet Explorer, and my test defaults to using IE. When I repeated the test using Chrome, Avira completely blocked the browser's access to quite a few dangerous URLs, bringing its overall protection rate up to 58 percent, well above the current average of 39 percent. That's good, but doesn't come up to the 85 percent protection rate achieved by McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2015
Poor Protection Against Phishing
Armed with the knowledge that Browser Safety requires a non-IE browser, I modified my antiphishing test to use Chrome (with Chrome's own phishing protection turned off). I scraped the very newest reported phishing URLs, sites too new to be on lists of already-verified frauds.
Avira did block some of the fraudulent sites, but not many. Its detection rate came in 65 percentage points behind Symantec Norton Security, 64 points behind Chrome's built-in protection, and 58 points behind Firefox alone. Avira's only success involved beating IE by 17 percentage points, and that only happened because IE had a really bad week for phishing protection. Don't imagine that Avira will be much help at protecting you from fraudulent websites.
Avira Antivirus 2015 is free, but it doesn't have a lot going for it beyond that. Go ahead and try it, if you like; it won't cost you anything. But in general I'd suggest that those looking for free antivirus protection stick with our Editors' Choice, Panda Free Antivirus 2015.