AVG’s Internet Security 2011 offers all the major components you’d expect from a security suite: antivirus, a decent spam filter, effective capable firewall, browsing protection, identity protection and a range of interesting extras. Sounds great, and it’s just as good in real life, which is why we gave it four stars in last year’s review.
Plainly AVG weren’t satisfied, though, and the company has now released an enhanced version, AVG Premium Security 2011, which extends the original suite with a couple of additional functions. And the most important of these, by a considerable distance, is AVG Identity Alert.
Unlike most of the competition, the new technology doesn’t simply monitor outgoing network and internet traffic, looking for details which really shouldn’t be shared without your permission (credit card or phone numbers, say). Instead it works as a web service, searching dubious sites all across the internet for traces of your details, and alerting you if any turn up.
We were intrigued – but the reality proved a little disappointing. After registering for Identity Alert, we discovered that the service protects very little information; it’ll monitor two credit card numbers, one email address, and one telephone number only. That’s not enough for us, and we’d hazard a guess that most users will similarly find this similarly inadequate.
In our test, the email address we’d used for registration immediately raised an alert, stating that it had “been found and is considered to be compromised”. Found where, we wondered? And in what context? Discovering our address in a file with 100,000 other addresses and their passwords would obviously highlight a major issue; addresses only on a spammers list would be much less important. So which was it?
These seemed like reasonable questions to us, but surprisingly Identity Alert offered no clues on this: no URL where the address was found, no general hints as the type of site or why it was suspicious, nothing at all. And so, while you can change your password if an alert like this pops up, you’ll never know if that was necessary or not.
Still, obviously this objection doesn’t apply to credit card numbers; they shouldn’t appear anywhere. And if you are hit by identity theft then helpful advice (if only for American and UK-based customers) explains how you can limit any potential damage by setting up a fraud alert on your credit record. So the Identity Alert service does have some value; it’s just difficult to assess how useful it might be right now.
Premium Security 2011’s other new feature is Quick Tune, essentially a very cut-down version of AVG’s PC Tuneup 2011 (it includes 4 of Tuneup’s 16 functions), which attempts to optimise your PC for performance and stability.
If you’ve ever seen a PC cleanup suite then Quick Tune will seem very familiar: it checks for Registry errors, detects and deletes junk files, defragments your hard drive and removes broken shortcuts, all very standard speedup tricks.
These aren’t particularly effective, though. The Junk Files tool can’t compete with top freeware like CCleaner (it won’t delete browser tracks, for instance), and the defragger is similarly basic; it’s using Auslogics technology but you’ll get more control by installing the free Auslogics Disk Defrag. The Registry Cleaner and broken shortcut detector are better, but unfortunately they’ll also have minimal effect on performance for most people.
Quick Tune is, at least, easy to use. Click “Analyze”, and it quickly checks each category for problems; review, say, any junk files it’s found by clicking the relevant “Details” link; and click “Fix” when you’re done to clean up. If you’re a PC maintenance novice then you’ll appreciate this simplicity.
And of course Premium Security 2011 does include all the usual internet security suite features, as we mentioned earlier. (Check our review of AVG Internet Security 2011 for more details, if you’re not familiar with the package.)
For most people, though, the only real reason to buy AVG Premium Security 2011 rather than AVG Internet Security comes in Identity Alert’s ability to scan the darker corners of the web for your most important two credit card numbers. There’s no way to assess how likely the service is to uncover anything, and hackers can presumably avoid detection entirely by storing stolen data in encrypted, rather than plain text files. Still, there’s no doubt this is a welcome extra layer of protection, which if it does find something could save you a big pile of cash, and as it’s also costs very little extra then the package just about scrapes a marginal thumbs up from us.