In association with heise online

08 August 2006, 12:35

(Almost) free virus scanner from AOL

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AOL USA is offering the virus scanner Active Virus Shield cost-free for Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000 and XP. Users need not necessarily be subscribers to AOL to download the software, which is based on Kaspersky's OEM scanner. They must however provide an email address to which AOL can send the activation code for the product. Unfortunately, providing the address also authorises AOL and its partner companies to fill that mailbox with adverts. Those looking to avoid this can have the code send to a disposable mail address. Based on the "License and User Agreement and Privacy Policy", Active Virus Shield also collects data about the PC onto which it is installed and analyses how the user reacts to pop-up ads when browsing. Although we performed a brief test, we were unable to observe that behaviour, however.

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The scanner comes bundled with an additional toolbar for Internet Explorer that shows the PC's security status and contains a password manager. A test installation of these components at the heise Security test labs led to a blue screen. Without the toolbar, the installation ran without problem. Unlike Kaspersky's full version, however, it was not possible to deselect individual components like file antivirus and mail antivirus. The heuristic behavioural blocker extension was also missing. This allows the scanner to protect the PC against pests without relying on signatures. Yet the Kaspersky scanner was among the best even without this function, according to tests by c't magazine, particularly because of the quick signature updates.

For those who are unconcerned about the privacy issues, this is a respectable scanner provided for free. Cost-free scanners that concentrate on protection against pests are also offered by Avira through its AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic and Grisoft with its AVG scanner. For more information about antivirus software also see heise Security's Anti-Virus pages.


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