NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2007
Free PC Security Software from Grisoft
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)

http://free.grisoft.com – Free Software
http://www.grisoft.com – Commercial software

Many of you may be aware already of an excellent but free antivirus program from the Czech Republic commonly referred to with the initials “AVG”. What you may not be aware of is that Grisoft, the publisher of the very popular AVG Anti-Virus Free, also publishes free companion software to round out the offering. The other free products by Grisoft are its AVG Anti-Spyware Free, and its recently born sibling AVG Anti-Rootkit Free.

The first thing that comes to mind is why would a prominent European software publisher, with corporate offices in New Jersey and Cyprus, give away highly rated software, for free. The apparent reason is that as millions of users download and use the free software, and become familiar with it and learn to trust it, then a portion of the users will upgrade to the more full featured and powerful commercial versions of the software. There may also be an altruistic component to this marketing plan in that there may be a belief that everyone needs basic protection from malware regardless of their ability to pay for it. Whatever the reason or rationale, Grisoft has made a notable contribution to computing safety and security by releasing these free software titles.

The best known and most widely used of the free Grisoft utilities is its AVG Anti-Virus Free. Considering the fact that millions of users around the world depend on this software for basic protection against the myriad of viruses, worms, and Trojans currently in circulation and attacking our computers, these users of free software are not sacrificing anything in the quality of the protection. The AVG Anti-Virus Free has had generally excellent reviews in the media, and has certifications of excellence and performance from testing services and agencies such as the “100% Detection Rate” from the Virus Bulletin, the “Check Mark” rating from West Coast Labs for its “Level 1, Level 2, and Trojan certification”, and the ICSA Labs “100% detection rate of AVG Free for Windows System is continuously certified by independent ICSA laboratories.” While lacking the automated features and free 24/7 technical support of its commercial incarnation, users of the free version may feel reasonably well protected from computer virus infections.

Lesser known is Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Spyware Free software. While not as widely used or known as its antivirus product, the anti-spyware product is also depended upon by millions of users to protect their computers from the hazards of spyware and related malware. This free version offers an easy to use product with daily database updates, heuristics to detect unknown threats, and an automatic cleaning engine to remove malware from the computer. What is not included with the free version, that is included with the commercial version, are automatic online updates, real-time monitoring of the entire system, and self-protection at the kernel layer guaranteeing gapless monitoring and protection from malware. The free version is only licensed for private, non-commercial, home computer use. Any other use will require the purchase of the more substantial commercial version.

Virus and malware writers are becoming more sophisticated and are pouring out new threats designed to penetrate the traditional PC defenses. One method that has only recently evolved from a concept to reality is a type of threat called a “rootkit”. Unlike traditional viruses and other forms of malware which infect a variety of data files or are free standing, rootkits are typically hidden deep in the computer registry, making it difficult or impossible for traditional virus scans to detect and remove them. Since they are often concealed in the registry, this malware may be automatically loaded whenever the computer is booted allowing it to perform its vile functions. To help secure and protect PCs from this new and rapidly evolving threat, Grisoft recently announced the latest in its trio of free protective software, the AVG Anti-Rootkit Free. Unlike traditional virus and spyware detectors, Rootkit Free may be able to detect and neutralize rootkits overlooked by more traditional products. This is a worthwhile download for all PC users, even though they may already have virus and spyware protection on their computers.

Grisoft fiscally supports the free software with sales of its commercial products, the flagship product being its AVG Internet Security ($53 retail), a comprehensive, integrated, and full featured antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, and firewall suite of software. Other commercial software from Grisoft for personal computers includes AVG Anti-Malware ($34), and AVG Antivirus Professional Edition ($30). Grisoft also produces software for comprehensive network protection, file server protection, email servers, and Linux machines. Grisoft offers as a demonstration of its social responsibility substantial discounts on its commercial software for schools, charities, churches (and other religious groups), municipal agencies, and other government organizations.

The free Grisoft software can be found and downloaded from http://free.grisoft.com while the commercial software can be found at http://www.grisoft.com. For those lacking current protective software, and who are otherwise eligible for a free license, the Grisoft free software may be quite a viable alternative to expensive commercial software. For those who want the automation, 24/7 technical support, and enhanced functionality, users should consider the commercial builds by Grisoft.

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