A company that both gives away a free antivirus and sells a commercial product has to make some serious choices. Should the free version include all essential protections, with the premium version adding still more features? Or should full-scale antivirus protection require payment? Newly renamed adaware went for the latter approach. With adaware antivirus pro 12, you get the web-based protection that the free edition lacks, as well as a firewall and a few other bonus features, but it still doesn’t add up to a prime package.


At a list price of $36 per year, a one-license subscription to adaware pro costs a little less than the going rate, which seems to be roughly $39.95. That’s the price for Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton, and Webroot. McAfee AntiVirus Plus

adaware antivirus free 12

Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Comodo Antivirus 10

MRG-Effitas. I try to launch each one, and take note of whether the antivirus prevents the browser from reaching the URL, vaporizes the malware file during download, or sits idly by and allows the download.


adaware antivirus pro 12 Main Window


The free adaware does not include protection against dangerous websites, so all it could do was scan the downloads and quarantine those it recognized. Its detection rate, 63 percent, was poor in comparison with competing products. I expected the pro edition to do better, and it did—but not by much.


Tested with 100 of the latest samples, adaware pro blocked 67 percent. For all but a handful, it completely prevented access to the dangerous URL. That’s better than Comodo, ZoneAlarm, Panda, and a few others, but most current products did better—some of them much better. With 98 percent protection, Norton tops the chart, and Avira Antivirus Pro

Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic

Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus

See How We Test Security Software


Premium Features


When you pay for adaware pro, you get several other features besides the Web Protection that did so well against phishing websites. The pro edition checks every email message and attachment for malware. As I mentioned, its Active Virus Control component tries to detect malware based on behavior, but I couldn’t goad it into action.


The Network Protection feature offers what you’d expect from a simple personal firewall. It blocks port scans, filters network traffic, and controls which programs can access the internet. However, it’s a bit wobbly.


SecurityWatch


When I attacked a physical test system using port scans and other web-based tests, adaware came close to the goal of stealthing all ports (something Windows Firewall manages without breaking a sweat). However, one test reported a dozen or so ports open, and another reported several ports merely closed, not stealthed.


As for program control, by default you don’t get any. If you open the advanced settings, you’ll see that when confronted with a program trying for network access, adaware’s default setting simply allows it. The firewall in Panda Antivirus Pro

CORE Impact penetration tool, I got no response from Network Protection. However, the Web Protection component fended off 30 percent of the attacks.


Last time I tested this product, I found that I had no trouble terminating all of its processes and stopping all of its services. This time around, it’s clear the designers worked on hardening the product, but they didn’t finish the job. I could only terminate one of its processes, and I couldn’t stop its single essential Windows service. But by setting the service to Disabled and rebooting, I rendered adaware nonfunctional. A malware coder could do the same.


I’m not impressed with Network Protection. Tests showed incomplete protection of ports. Its program control defaults to a do-nothing mode, and when it is active, it wildly pops up queries about valid processes. A malware coder could take it down by reconfiguring its main service. Good thing firewall-type protection isn’t a key feature for an antivirus.


Skip a Step?


Yes, adaware antivirus pro 12 offers the Web Protection that I sorely missed when testing the free edition. It didn’t shine in my malicious URL blocking test, but it scored high against phishing URLs. You get firewall protection too, though it’s not the best. I’m wondering if the company should just put Web Protection in the free product and skip straight from there to the full security suite, omitting the for-pay adaware pro antivirus.


For just a few dollars more, you can install one of four Editors’ Choice antivirus tools: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic, or Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus. Each of these has its own particular virtues. Our fifth Editors’ Choice, McAfee AntiVirus Plus, costs more, but you get unlimited licenses, not just one. With products like these available, there’s just no reason to look at adaware pro.



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