AVG aims to make Web surfing safe again

As well as the usual antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall protection, AVG 8.0 -- the upcoming Internet security suite from AVG -- aims to make browsing the Internet secure. If it works, it may even protect users from themselves. (I know, it sounds far fetched.)

I was speaking this morning to Larry Bridwell, AVG's global security strategist. Bridwell was outlining the upcoming AVG 8.0 release, and in particular pointing my scoop-hungry nose in the direction of two new features.

AVG 8.0 will launch in the UK at some point around the end of February. It's in beta now and a release candidate will be out soon. As well as a single antivirus and anti-spyware engine, AVG 8.0 will have beefed up behavioural support and a brand-new rootkit detection and removal tool.

But enough of such run-of-the-mill niceties, we want sexy security. And Bridwell was most keen to talk about two new functions included in AVG 8.0: Safe Search and Safe Surf.

The fruit of AVG's acquisition of Exloit Prevention Labs, Safe Search and Safe Surf are online pre-scanners intended to help users make good decisions about which sites to visit, and which links to click. They work only with Internet Explorer and Firefox, and any Web searches have to be carried out using Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Once AVG 8.0 is installed, each time you search online, Safe Search checks the results on the fly to give you an immediate idea of which Web sites are safe (or safer) to visit. Unlike McAfee Site Advisor, which relies on a database of blacklisted websites updated by user feedback , AVG's tool checks the code of each page, and even visits the links on it.

Similarly, if you right-click a link in an e-mail or on a Web page, AVG has a quick look to see if it's safe to proceed.

It all sounds very useful indeed, although I wonder about the finger-tapping that may be required while AVG checks out your next destination. And, of course, I've got no evidence as to how 'safe' an AVG-approved site is.

But I like AVG's ideas. Ultimately, this kind of multilayered approach has to be the way forward in an online world where we can never be 100 per cent secure. As AVG's Bridwell says, the government's message that everyone needs antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall is nothing more than a "good bottom line".

Bridwell reckons that malware these days is almost always intended to steal. And for most of us, computer use equals web use. Just because the internet looks like it did 10 years ago, doesn't mean that it is as safe.

As Bridwell puts it: "Surfing the Internet in 1995 was like surfing off Haiwai. Surfing the Web today is like surfing through a hurricane."

We think we know what he means.

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Matt Egan

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