Avast AntiVirus Review
Announcement: You may have heard that Avast sells its customer’s data to third-party advertisers, a practice commonly done by social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. In 2019, it was revealed that Avast uses its customers’ web activity to create targeted advertisements. However, because this information is anonymized and is never linked with any customer’s specific personal information, we don’t consider it a dealbreaker, not to mention the fact that it’s so commonplace in the tech industry. Also, there is a way to opt-out of this data collection if you use the paid version of Avast’s software; request your opt-out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line “PRIVACY REQUEST”, or send physical mail to AVAST Software “Attention: PRIVACY” s.r.o., Pikrtova 1737/1a, 140 00 Prague 4, Czech Republic.
You’re probably reading this because you’re concerned about malware or viruses on your devices. We’re concerned too, which is why we’ve reviewed Avast Antivirus, along with other popular antivirus software on the market. We tested out Avast on our 2011 Macbook Pro extensively; here’s how well it worked.
How Does Avast Antivirus Affect Our Devices?
As we said, we tested out Avast Antivirus on a 2011 Macbook Pro. Not only did the software scan our laptop for malware every time we opened the app using what they call Smart Scan, but it also let us scan it for malware whenever we wanted, or, as it’s known in the antivirus industry, on-demand. And because we signed up for Premium, we also got a firewall, a form of network security that filters out untrustworthy traffic.1 The software used behavior-based detection to find suspicious files, scanning for:
- Remote access attacks
- Dangerous downloads or websites
- Malicious email attachments
- Weaknesses in our Wi-Fi network
- Fake websites.
If we wanted to, we could even schedule malware scans. All in all, Avast’s coverage was comprehensive, and we felt safe knowing that our device was protected, a computer we’ve continued to use for almost a decade!
The Installation Process
While Avast lists prices on its website, we couldn’t actually buy the software on the website. Rather, we downloaded the free app first. That downloading process only took a few minutes, and from there, the app told us that we had several areas in which ransomware was detected. Once we clicked on that, it took us to a pricing page, where we selected the one-year subscription for one device. Then, after another virus scan, which took about two minutes, we learned that we didn’t really have any ransomware; this was a bit of a ploy to get us to subscribe, sort of like when you type your ex’s name into Google and click on one of those shady identity sites that doesn’t actually show you any information without paying (not that we still look up old ex’s, of course!).
We don’t appreciate the bait and switch, although these sorts of deceptions aren’t uncommon with antivirus software, unfortunately; Norton Antivirus Plus, for example, also had a lot of confusing pop-ups trying meant to get us to sign up for their paid subscription, which you can read more about in our Norton Antivirus Plus review.
Another confusing thing was that the pricing on the app differed from the pricing displayed on their website, although the former ended up being accurate. All in all, aside from the somewhat misleading setup and inaccurate prices, Avast was really easy to set up, and definitely didn’t require cybersecurity experts like ourselves.
Using Avast Antivirus: Our Experience
Once we were set up with the app and our subscription, the main page was divided into four sections: Core Shields and Virus Chest, which were also part of the free account, and then Wi-Fi Inspector and Ransomware Shield, part of our Premium subscription only.
- Core Shields: The Core Shields were pretty self-explanatory, constantly exploring our Macbook for malware and blocking it as soon as it’s detected. We could turn off specific functions of Core Shield if we wanted to, but we decided to keep them all on for maximum protection. Let’s get a bit more specific.
- File shield: Since we’ve had this computer for nine years, we have a ton of files on it, all of which Avast scanned for malware. Somehow, none was found!
- Web shield: This shield would’ve blocked any unsafe downloads from the web as well as web attacks. We download a lot of files onto our Mac for work, so this made us feel more comfortable, especially when it came to torrenting.
- Email shield: A common method of phishing attacks and malware is through email attachments, so Avast scanned our email to automatically block attachments it deemed dangerous.
- Real site: Finally, real site made sure that the sites we spend money on, and manage our money on like the Wells Fargo site, are safe and secure. With the pandemic, we’ve been doing more and more shopping online, so this feature is essential for anyone involved with e-commerce or online banking.
- Virus Chest: If the Avast app had found any viruses, it would’ve stored them in the Virus Chest, where they couldn’t harm the rest of our computer. That was where we put the five viruses we tested with Avast, which you’ll hear about in a second.
- Wi-Fi Inspector: Since we typically work from a shared co-working space (yes, we live in Brooklyn and drink kombucha and are total cliches), the Wi-Fi Inspector showed us everyone who was connected to the space’s Wi-Fi network, which ended up being over 10 devices. It told us that all of the devices were secure, but if we were on a home network, it would’ve been really useful to see people stealing our Wi-Fi. That’s why it’s important to password protect your Wi-Fi network, folks!
- Ransomware Shield: Finally, the Ransomware Shield, as you would imagine, monitored our computer for ransomware and made sure that apps couldn’t keep our data hostage, be it our sensitive files or photos. We could decide which folders were protected, manually adding new folders to the main documents and pictures folders that had uploaded automatically.
Those were the four main functions of the app and overall, it was really easy to use and very clear. Again, had we not signed up for Premium, we would’ve only been able to use the Core Shield and Virus Chest; there wouldn’t have been any detection for ransomware, our Wi-Fi network or phishing, the leading cause of cyber attacks. Once we were done clicking on those four services, we ran a Smart Scan on our entire computer. That ensured that our virus definitions were up to date and that our 2,080 files had no viruses or malware aside from the viruses we downloaded specifically for testing.
Finally, the third step of the Smart Scan was called “Advanced Issues”, which wouldn’t have been available had we stuck with the free service. In a nutshell, it gave us a Ransomware Shield on two of our folders, meaning they couldn’t be held hostage, scanned our WiFi network for threats and protected us from fake websites. And that was it for the Premium Service!
All in all we found it really simple to use and loved the clear interface, but one thing that was annoying was a pop-up trying to get us to buy additional Avast products, like a cookie-blocker. We don’t like ads in general, especially from a service we paid for literally seconds earlier. Being upsold simply never feels great! However, there was only one pop-up, so Avast wasn’t too aggressive about its sales overall.
Testing Avast for Multiple Viruses
Simply scanning our Macbook as is for viruses wasn’t good enough for our testing. To find out if Avast could really find viruses, as opposed to there just being none on our laptop, we downloaded (but didn’t open!) five different files containing everything from adware to spyware to even Trojan malware. We know viruses come in all different forms, so we wanted to use these files across all of the antivirus software that we tested to see how they performed. Overall, Avast detected three out of five, while two remained undetected by their software. While 60 percent may not sound great, it’s actually pretty average when it comes to antivirus software; of the roughly 40 top antivirus softwares that we’ve tested, only two detected 100 percent of the viruses, believe it or not. Let’s talk a little more about each.
- XLSX file: If we had clicked on it, this seemingly innocent Excel spreadsheet would’ve tried to convince us to disable Avast and enable their macros, then steal our sensitive information like our web history and passwords. Only 34 percent of the different antivirus software we tested detected it, and unfortunately, Avast fell into the majority, not detecting it.
- EXE file: The virus detected by 66 percent of antivirus software was an EXE file that enables debug privileges and tries to steal sensitive data, like the websites we’ve visited and our login credentials. In this case, Avast fell into the majority, detecting the virus during the Smart Scan.
- DOC file: When a user opens or closes this document, this virus embeds a macro with malware, detected by 36 percent of all antivirus programs we tested out. Avast was part of this minority! Two for three so far, not half bad.
- XLSM file: Only 35 percent of the antivirus programs detected this XLSM file, and unfortunately, Avast fell into the majority, not detecting this high-reputation virus.
- XLS file: Finally, when we tested out this Excel sheet virus that 51 percent of the softwares could detect, Avast detected it. That’s good news, because this virus, like the XLSX file, would have tried to convince us to take down Avast before putting malware on our computer. Fortunately, Avast detected this virus so we didn’t have to worry when working in Excel (or in any other desktop app, for that matter).
Here’s an overview of our virus testing with Avast:
|Virus File Type||Percent of Antivirus Software
That Detected It
|Did Avast Detect It?|
Overall, we were happy with our Avast performed in our test in general. While no antivirus software is 100 percent effective, Avast certainly met our standards in terms of digital security and virus detection.
How Avast Antivirus Performed in Lab Tests
Aside from our own extensive testing, we also looked at independent lab data from AV Test2 to see their results for Avast. Out of 10 points each, Avast got a 5.5 for protection, a five for performance, and a six for usability, resulting in a 5.5 average overall. This is pretty run-of-mill and is comparable to most of the top antivirus software. And when it came to the detection of widespread malware popular in the past four months, Avast could detect nearly 99 percent of it, nearly as perfect as you can get. So while we weren’t thrilled with their third-party sharing of our web data, the service does what it says in terms of detecting malware.
Avast Antivirus Pricing
Now, since Avast’s pricing was different on the app versus the website, we’re going to use the website as our gold standard, but note that these prices are subject to change; to see the most information, read our page specifically on Avast’s pricing.
Premium Service Pricing
We paid $39.99 for one year of Premium service on our Mac, although we could’ve paid an extra $10 to cover nine more devices. One thing to note is that if you want the antivirus software on your mobile device or tablet, it’s free. Another thing? The prices will go up after the first year for the paid subscriptions, so make sure you keep that in mind. But all in all, Avast’s prices are pretty similar to its competitors.
|1 Device Yearly Cost For First Year||$39.99||$39.99||$0.00||$0.00|
|10 Devices Yearly Cost For First Year||$49.99||$49.99||$49.99||$49.99|
Premium vs. Free
Let’s jog back to that free service. While it has blocking for things like viruses and spyware, it lacks protection against ransomware and phishing plus weak Wi-Fi connections. For the whole kit and caboodle, we recommend that you use the Premium service like we did.
|Blocks viruses, spyware, etc.||✓||✓|
|WiFi weakness and intruder alerts||X||✓|
Note: Aside from the one-year plan, Avast also offers plans for two and three years, but they are only available for purchase in the app itself, available for macOS, iOS, Android or PC.
What Information Does Avast Antivirus Collect?
- Phone number
- Card number
- IP address
- Billing data
- Subscription information
- Operating system
- City or country of device
- Browser type
- Service data like malware samples and detections
- URLs and referrers
- Usage statistics.
Pro Tip: To use the Avast Antivirus macOS app, you’ll need macOS 10.10 or higher along with at least 500 MB of hard disk space.
Although privacy policies are important, they can’t tell us everything we need to know about an antivirus software. We also did some Googling to find out if they had a history of security breaches or privacy violations and unfortunately, they had the latter, reported by Forbes last year.
In a nutshell, Forbes revealed that the company had been selling users’ web activity since 2013 at the latest. While Avast’s CEO said that this information isn’t matched with any individual users, it still doesn’t feel great that our antivirus software is essentially spying on us, even if it’s stored in an anonymized format.
FYI: All information on users’ web activity is not stored with any of their personal information, so it can’t be matched to any particular user even when shared with third parties.
As far as background information is concerned, Avast is pretty clean. The company has been around since 1988 and they’re based in the Czech Republic with over 435 million active users per month. That makes them have the second most market share for anti-malware software as of this past spring, 2020. Going public in 2018, the company bought AVG, another organization that makes antivirus software, which you can read more about in our AVG review. If you’re looking for a popular antivirus software that’s served millions of users around the world, then Avast is for you.
Avast Antivirus Customer Support
When we had a question about Avast’s pricing, there was no way to contact a human. Rather, we had to find the answers in their FAQs, or fill out an online form. But when we typed in “Antivirus pricing” into their help center search box, nothing useful came up. Overall, we found Avast’s customer support to be pretty lacking, and we wish they had a phone line or at the very least a live chat, like many of its competitors.
Avast Antivirus App
While we downloaded Avast’s Mac app, they also have apps for Windows, iOS and Android devices, as we mentioned before. On Google Play, the app is called Avast Antivirus- Scan & Remove Virus Cleaner, while the iOS version is named Avast Security & Privacy. Both apps have 4.7-star ratings, which is pretty high. Although we only tested the macOS app, we’re glad that iPhone and Android users had good experiences.
Clearly, we had some issues with Avast, namely its history of sharing customer data with third parties, its confusing pricing and the pop-ups we got with the macOS app. But in terms of the actual functionality, Avast did a great job scanning our Macbook Pro for malware, ransomware, and the like. So as long as you’re not super-obsessed with maintaining your privacy online, Avast is a good pick for antivirus. And if you want to encrypt your web traffic and IP address, may we suggest a VPN? Avast has their own in the form of the Avast Secureline VPN, which we tested out in our Avast Secureline VPN review. They also have other digital security products, so be sure to explore all your options.
Get Avast Antivirus if you’d like…
- Extensive scanning for malware, ransomware, etc.
- Great apps for iOS and Android
- Affordable pricing
But don’t get Avast Antivirus if you don’t want…
- Pop-ups on Mac
- No phone or live chat support
- Subscriptions that are shorter than one year
To explore other options, read our review of the best antivirus software. We’re more than excited to help you increase your digital security, and antivirus software is a must, and is relatively easy to install and use regularly with minimal effort.
Cisco. (2020). What Is a Firewall?
AV-Test. (2020). AV-TEST Product Review and Certification Report – Sep/2020.
Avast. (2020). Products Policy.