avast! Free Antivirus 8 has several advanced modules that provide additional protection from malware:
- AutoSandbox - prevents changes to files and settings by unknown programs.
- WebRep with Antiphishing - provides community-based web reputation system as an addon/plugin for Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. It also blocks known phishing sites that try to steal your user names and passwords. Additional SiteCorrect feature blocks visiting malicious sites if you make a spelling error in safe site's address - one example in the past was google.com vs googkle.com.
- Ad Blocker - blocks advertising networks that are known to track user behavior.
- Browser Cleanup - removes browser toolbars that do not want to go away or have bad reputation among users.
- Site Blocking - prevents access to defined web sites for parental control.
- Software Updater - detects and notifies when updates are needed for common programs, such as browsers and add-ons.
avast! Free Antivirus 8 has AutoSandbox feature that puts unknown or suspicious programs in so-called Sandbox - the programs run (and have red border around their windows), but no changes are really saved to file system (hard disks or removable disks) or Windows Registry.
By default, AutoSandbox tries to work in fully automated mode. In earlier version of avast!, this often lead to the inability to properly run downloaded programs.
avast! Free Antivirus 8's AutoSandbox feature, however, seems to have improved much - notifications do not pop up for downloaded programs unless they really are malware. On the other hand, if you have some old program that is not used a lot and it is not digitally signed, you might run into serious trouble. In my case it was old HP Data Protector Express 3.50 SP1 that came with my DLT drive - AutoSandbox deleted the program executable in Auto mode. Luckily, I have backups working.
Please set AutoSandbox to Ask mode as soon as possible to avoid such errors.
Open avast! user interface by clicking its Taskbar Notification Area icon.
Then open Security tab from top menu. Then expand Antivirus tab on the left and open File System Shield tab. Click Settings on the right.
To run AutoSandbox in a more well-behaved mode, select Ask from AutoSandbox mode combo box. To see more details, tick the Show progress info and final recommendation combo box.
In very limited occasions (such as running ComboFix), it is best to turn off AutoSandbox temporarily - disable the Enable AutoSandbox setting then.
In the Reasons for AutoSandboxing section, it is recommended to keep all settings turned on. Those who often launch unsigned (but safe) programs from network shares and removable drives (such as USB flash disks), might want to disable the The file is executed from a remote/removable media option. But please keep other options enabled here!
To exclude some programs from automatic sandboxing, use the browse button. To remove a program from the automatic sandboxing exclusion list, click delete.
Click OK to save the settings.
Now you are able to select Open normally from Actions to take combo box of AutoSandbox popup and use the Remember my answer for this program option.
avast! Free Antivirus provides browser protection via two different plugins/add-ons - Security plugin controls WebRep, Antiphishing, SiteCorrect; and Ad Blocker takes care of sneaky ad networks.
avast! WebRep is an equivalent to Web of Trust toolbar - a browser add-on that displays reputation ratings for web sites you visit and for search results of major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing). The plugin also protects from entering phishing sites.
avast! WebRep plug-in works with Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera.
The color of rating bars shows how safe the site is - green ones are safe, yellow ones have some problems and red ones are dangerous.
The number of filled bars shows how many ratings have been submitted for the site - the more bars, the more ratings.
Here's an example of SiteCorrect and Antiphishing feature working together. It is always good to click the blue Get me out of here button in case a site has been marked as a phishing one.
To help avast! by providing your own rating to unrated sites or sites with few votes. Just click the avast! WebRep button in browser and cast your vote.
WebRep's biggest shortcoming is the lack of blocking red (dangerous) sites. Sites considered harmful open as usual and no additional protection is offered by the plug-in itself. Therefore I personally prefer using free WOT Safe Surfing Tool over it.
Managing Security Plugin features in avast! Free Antivirus settings
You can enable, disable and configure WebRep, Antiphishing and SiteCorrect in avast! Free Antivirus settings. Click avast! icon in System Tray (Taskbar Notification Area) to open the program's user interface and click Settings on the top right.
In the avast! Settings window, open WebRep & Antiphishing tab on the left. Here you can use Enable WebRep and Enable phishing filter check boxes for turning the features on or off. As long as you're using avast! Free Antivirus 8 browser plugins, it is strongly suggested to keep these boxes ticked. Never activate the Suppress WebRep tooltips in search results option if you want to stay safe while searching on major engines, such as Google, Bing, etc.
Move on to the SiteCorrect tab. Make sure the Enable SiteCorrect check box is ticked.
Do not close the avast! Settings window yet if you want to add or remove avast! browser plugins.
To install or uninstall browser plugins provided by avast! Free Antivirus 8, open Browser Integration tab in avast! Settings window.
Here you can click Install or Uninstall for any available plugin for any installed browser. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have both Security and Ad Blocker plugins available; Opera and Apple Safari have Security plugin only.
Managing the plugins is a very simple process. To add a plugin to a browser, click Install.
After a few seconds, a success message will appear. Click OK.
If you had browser window(s) open at the time of installation, you must close these and then restart the browser for the plugin to work.
In Internet Explorer 9 and 10, a Notification Bar might appear after adding plugins. Click Choose add-ons and then click Enable All.
avast! browser plugins can't be removed by disabling or uninstalling the add-on/plugin in the web browser. This will just disable the plugin temporarily until the next time you close and restart your browser.
To get rid of a plugin, click Uninstall button in avast! Settings window, Browser Integration tab instead.
avast! will make sure your really-really want to remove the browser plugin. Click Yes.
After a few moments, the success message will appear. Click OK.
If you had browser window(s) open at the time of uninstallation, you must close all open browser windows and then restart the browser for the browser plugin removal to take effect.
avast! Browser Cleanup is a godsend for those who have been struggling with browser toolbars and plugins/addons that do not want to uninstall properly. Browser Cleanup uses reputation services to determine which toolbars and addons cause trouble or are malicious.
First, open avast! user interface by clicking its icon in Taskbar Notification Area.
Open Security tab from the menu on the top, then expand Tools tab and click Browser Cleanup.
Click the huge Start avast! Browser Cleanup NOW button.
In case some badware has been detected, Current Status reads Attention. A list of detection appears and you can click the More details link for each item to see the reasons for this rating. It is recommended to use the Remove all add-ons listed below and cleanup browser button, but you can also delete only some of the detections.
In this case, the infamous Ask Toolbar was detected and is finally about to be removed properly.
avast! will confirm your action. Click Yes.
After the cleanup is complete, a success message appears. Click OK.
If Current Status reads Clean, there are no known annoyances in your web browsers. You can still click on any tab with a browser name and use the Disable button to turn off any add-on/plug-in that has a rating of three stars or less. To list all installed add-ons, clear the Exclude add-ons with a good rating check box first.
You can also reset browser by clicking the Restore browser settings to default values. Use this one with extreme care - you might lose important settings!
Site Blocking feature is useful for parents protecting their kids from addiction to some online games or websites; or any user who needs to block his/her computer from accessing some certain site (for example, to help cleaning malware).
This feature must be used with avast! password protection, otherwise it is absolutely ineffective.
In avast! Free Antivirus 8 user interface, open Security tab from the top menu, expand Tools tab on the left and click Site Blocking tab.
First, tick the Enable site blocking box. Then, under URLs to block, type a web site address. For example, facebook.com. Note that avast! adds an asterisk (*) to the end of the address. The asterisk means that any sub-address (e.g. facebook.com/avast) of the site will also be blocked.
As wildcards, such as asterisks and question marks are supported, it is not recommended to use the "www." prefix. Instead, replace it with "*.", for example "*.facebook.com" - this will prevent opening any subsites of Facebook. E.G., specifying "www.facebook.com" will deny access to http://www.facebook.com, but not to http://facebook.com; while using "*.facebook.com" will block both.
To change an entry, simply click it and make your corrections. To delete an entry, click the delete button to the right of the entry.
When a user tries to open a blocked site, a blocking message will be displayed:
Sadly, there is a huge limitation to avast! Site Blocking - it does not support secure connections (https). So you can block http://www.facebook.com, but not https://www.facebook.com.
Shortly after installing avast! Free Antivirus 8, many users encounter brand new notifications from avast! Software Updater: "The software update status of your computer is CRITICAL" and "An important update relevant for security is available for:".
This new feature checks if there are any security updates available for most important programs, such as web browsers and their add-ons. Free version of avast! will not apply these updates automatically (only paid version of avast! Premier can). To get free automated updating, use Secunia PSI.
Software Updater button is available in avast! user interface.
Alternatively, open Security tab from top menu and click Software Updater.
A list of important programs appears. You can click More details link for each item to see installed (Local) version and latest one available (New).
To see only outdated software, clear the Show up-to-date programs check box.
To update a program, click its Fix now button. avast! will download the updated installer and launch it. Please be aware that there is no automation - you must read settings carefully and avoid installing any additional (unneeded, promotional) programs that might be bundled with the installers! For example, some versions of Java installer offer the infamous Ask Toolbar that is difficult to get rid of and known to cause browser crashes.
If an update is some Microsoft software, Windows Update will open instead after clicking the Fix now button. Please make sure you have configured the feature properly and in case of trouble see how to fix Microsoft/Windows Update.
Rescan button is useful after updating software.
In case you have an alternative software updater (such as free Secunia PSI) installed, you can turn off the one provided by avast!. Just click the Stop button above the list of detected programs. avast! Software Updater will not notify you about outdated programs after this.
To configure the feature, click Settings in the top right of avast! user interface and open the Software Updater tab.
If you have multiple users on your Windows PC, it is strongly recommended to tick the Allow update of system-wide products for administrators only check box. This will prevent avast! from notifying standard (non-administrator) users about programs that require administrative rights during installation.
To speed up updating, enable the Automatically download updates if possible option. avast! will then save installers quietly and you'll spare some time. This one is not recommended if your primary/system hard drive is tight on space.
The Database reset (troubleshooting) section allows clearing the avast! database of known products. This comes in handy if avast! Software Updater thinks falsely that some latest programs are not up-to-date, or detects software that is not installed.