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Active Virus Shield (AVS) Review


by Coenraad de Beer (Webmaster & Founder of Cyber Top Cops)
Posted on 23-03-2007

AOL Active Virus Shield, also known as AVS, is powered by the ever-popular Kaspersky scanning engine. Kaspersky does not have a fully functional free version of their anti-virus software like Grisoft and Alwil, so it is nice to see them making a move in the direction of free anti-malware software.

The installation process is fairly simple, but requires a few extra steps not normally present in the setup procedures of most other anti-virus packages. AVS checks whether you have other anti-virus software installed on your PC and prevents the user from continuing with the installation until all other anti-virus packages are removed from your system. Once the installation is complete it prompts to install the AOL Security Toolbar. It is up to the user whether this toolbar should be installed or not. AVS is subject to an activation process, which requires the user to supply an e-mail address before downloading the software. An e-mail address is required to receive the activation code needed to activate the software. A different activation code is required for each computer on which you want to install AVS. Without activation you won't be able to download updates.

Note on the AOL Security Toolbar
The AOL Security Toolbar is obsolete in browsers like Firefox and is therefore only designed for Internet Explorer versions 5 and up. It includes a password manager, pop-up blocker, a link to WhoIs information and Alexa Traffic Ranking for each website you visit. All these goodies are built-in features of Firefox, except the WhoIs and Alexa Ranking feature. A site like DNS Stuff can be used for WhoIs lookups and the PageRank Display of the Google Toolbar can be used for a web site ranking and popularity indicator. There are so many toolbars forced down our throats these days and no toolbar can really make your browser more secure. Toolbars only make browsing easier and more comfortable for users. It is a good thing to see AOL making the installation of this toolbar optional and making it easy to un-install it if you don't like it.

Automatic Updating
AVS keeps itself up to date by downloading updates automatically on a frequent basis. The update process can be paused and resumed on a later stage if required, making the AVS Update Manager very flexible and user friendly.

Real-time Protection
The resident shield of AVS is effective and unobtrusive. It can be configured to take action against threats automatically or to prompt the user for appropriate action (which is the default setting). The pop-up balloons disappear automatically after a short while and critical errors and risks generate constant pop-ups at specific intervals until the user attends to the problems. This ensures that the user is aware of everything happening on the system.

Resource Usage
AVS goes easy on your system resources but takes a while to load during the Windows Startup, so there is room for improvement. It runs pretty smooth on your system once the resident shield is loaded. The system remains reasonably responsive and does not freeze up during scans.

Isolation of Threats
AVS does an extremely thorough job when it comes to the isolation of threats. You can do absolutely nothing with an infected file, restricting the spread of malware throughout your system to the minimum. If AVS is configured to delete threats automatically, it will delete an infected file the moment you click on it. There is not even the slightest chance of renaming, moving or copying the infected file.

The interface is streamlined and very user-friendly because many of the interface elements were inherited from Kaspersky. It is easy to update AVS, launch a scan, or view the status of critical program components. Information is communicated to the user in a clear and concise way without confusing the user.

Scanning & Healing
The scanning process is completely automatic and requires no further user interaction once it is started. The scanner can be configured to disinfect or delete infected objects automatically, or treatments can be postponed until the scanning is finished. The user can then initiate action against each threat individually or take one single action against all threats detected during the scan.

Startup Objects ands System Restore Archives are also scanned. AVS is not a standard anti-virus scanner but scans for objects from different malware categories, including viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, diallers and potentially dangerous software like remote access utilities, prank programs and jokes. Active Virus Shield uses iCheckerTM, iSwiftTM, and iStreamsTM technology to speed up the scanning process. These technologies basically involve the scanning of new and altered objects only and the skipping of objects that have not been altered since the last scan. iChecker applies to objects with a structure recognised by AVS (for example .exe, .dll, .com, .sys, .zip and .rar files), while iSwift applies to objects in NTFS file systems only.

AVS disappoints a bit with the disinfection of heavily infected machines and against certain infections, but the purpose of an anti-virus system is more about prevention than cure and AVS does a good job at keeping known threats out of your system.

The un-installation process of AVS is easy and straightforward except for one problem. You need to terminate the resident shield before launching the un-install program. It is unreasonable and sloppy from the developers to expect this from the user, because the un-install program should be able to terminate all running modules of the anti-virus program on its own, without relying on the user to prepare the software for un-installation.

CTC Rating for
Active Virus Shield (AVS):

Installation: 7
Automatic Updating: 9
Real-time Protection: 8
Resource Usage: 7
Isolation of Threats: 10
Interface: 8
Scanning & Healing: 7
Un-installation: 6
Overall: 7.75

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