As long as NTFS partitions continue to sprawl over heterogeneous networks, anti-virus companies will dole out scanners for Linux. No surprise then that AVG Technologies, makers of the popular AVG Anti-Virus, has a scanner that runs on Linux in its latest 8.5 series bouquet.
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.5 for Linux (hereafter abbreviated to AVG Free) isn't AVG's first scanner for Linux. The company has released binaries for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures for Linux and FreeBSD, and the scanner itself is loaded with features up to the brim. Despite all this, it is utterly useless for the intended audience.
As per AVG's licence requirements, the Linux scanner is meant for private, and non-commercial use only. Fair enough. But without a GUI to handle the dozen daemons and command-line scanning tools, a normal desktop user would probably struggle.
Despite being aimed at home users, AVG Free has no graphical interface.
To complicate matters further, the scanner has no user guide. Right after installation, AVG displays a bit of text that lists all the tools and daemons and suggests referring to their individual man pages for "detailed information".
Like all good command-line apps, the AVG tools are overflowing with switches and options. The on-demand scanner, for example, has about 20 switches, and you'll need to use quite a lot of them to scan inside archives, and documents with macros, and ignore certain extensions. With only the CLI to play with, the freedom of control becomes excruciatingly inconvenient.
The good news is that you can perform all the configuration in AVG Free using one tool. The bad news is that the configuration tool isn't wizard-based, only accepts changes via switches and there are some 300 parameters for you to tweak. The scanner also has a mail filter that can scan SMTP traffic for virus, spam, and phishing content. It's a good feature, and desktop users who run their own SMTP servers will surely be delighted.
Scan on demand
One of the highlighted features of AVG Free is the on-access scanner, which monitors files as you copy or open them. The only (pretty significant) catch is that to use this feature you'll have to compile the RedirFS kernel module.
The built-in scheduler cannot currently schedule system scans. To top it all, the scanner itself lacks the ability to clean, quarantine, or even delete the infected files. When an infected file is found, the scanner lists the complete path to the infected file, and it's up to you to take further action.
This is still better than the on-access scanner, which silently notes the details of the infection in a log file. To further complicate matters, AVG Free maintains public and private log files for every user, and for every program, so you'll have as many log files as the daemons and tools you're running.
The problem with AVG Free is the mismatch between the capabilities of the product and the intended audience. If it were meant for commercial use on enterprise servers, we'd be a little more tolerant of its CLI-fetish.
Unfortunately, it's a stark reminder of the first commercial software for Linux – semi-prepared, unpolished versions of their Windows cousins, dumped on to the Linux users for cheap publicity. The ploy didn't last for long. Neither will this.
Our verdict: Powerful, feature-rich scanner that's completely lost on its target audience. 3/10.
Testing a scanner for effectiveness is no easy task, and there's no definitive benchmarks to compare the results with. AVG, like BitDefender, catalogues a lot more virus, trojans and other infections than open source alternatives like such as ClamAV. That said, tests conducted by open source network gateway vendor Untangle show that ClamAV performs second only to Kaspersky, ahead of F-Prot, Sophos and Symantec.
Even in terms of features, AVG doesn't particularly shine in front of BitDefender and ClamAV. One of AVG's highlighted features is its on-access scanning, which is missing from the free version of BitDefender but is available in ClamAV. One show-stopper in the free edition of AVG is its inability to automatically take action against infected files.
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