Ad-Aware gets an antivirus cousin

Lavasoft, the publisher behind Ad-Aware security apps, unveils its first full-fledged antivirus application. Why is it nearly identical to Avira AntiVir?

Updated December 17 at 9:00 a.m. PST with a comment from Lavasoft.

Lavasoft on Monday unveiled a new antivirus application it hopes will do as well as its runaway hit Ad-Aware.

The encore, Lavasoft Anti-Virus Helix, is Lavasoft's first full-fledged antivirus application. The problem is, it's nearly identical to one that already exists: Avira AntiVir.

A Lavasoft vice president told CNET in an e-mail:

Yes, we do have a technology partnership with Avira for the anti-virus engine technology, as our company expertise is in anti-spyware. We have customers who have been asking us for years to release a stand-alone anti-virus, because they do not want to be forced into using other security applications built into a suite that may not meet the standards they require...Lavasoft's contribution to the stand-alone anti-virus is a trusted brand in security software, particularly as we were the first to ever launch a commercial anti-spyware product.

Furthermore, Lavasoft admits to being opaque about their "partnership" except "when asked directly."

This is disingenuous, especially for a respected company that claims to deliver on a customer promise. It would be one thing if Lavasoft borrowed Avira's antivirus engine to complement its own antispyware program. It is another to thinly veil a recognized, proprietary product under a new color scheme and stamp it your own.


Lavasoft Anti-Virus Helix shares Avira AntiVir's interface, down to malware blockers, on-the-fly detection, a scanner, malware removal, and protection from e-mail viruses and Web threats. It offers full system scanning and, in addition, lets you pick from preset scans or create a profile to scan a smaller portion of your PC, for instance, just your "C" drive.

Lavasoft Anti-Virus Helix
Like Avira AntiVir, Anti-Virus Helix scans fairly quickly and lets you get hands-on with the results. (Credit: CNET)

Just like Avira AntiVir, Lavasoft's new antivirus app performed well in our tests. It beeped when encountering a suspicious file and wouldn't budge until we ignored, deleted, or quarantined it. While a good practice, the need to babysit the scan could undo the benefit of any overnight scans you schedule.

Lavasoft Anti-Virus Helix lets you do any number of things with the data, including print, save, and send reports. However, it could use an internal browser to look up information online about discovered threats.

Other extras can be found in the app's configuration menu. When you elect to enter expert mode, you'll be able to turn on rootkit scanning, scan outgoing e-mail messages, and specify MIME types to block (simplistically, any area of an e-mail where malware can hitch a ride). We appreciate being able to add suspicious files from the quarantine interface.

The fact that you have to manually discover and add STMP e-mail and specific MIME details points to one of the app's biggest problems. Compared to Ad-Aware and others in Lavasoft's family, the dowdy Anti-Virus Helix is much less user-friendly in visual appeal, navigation, and organization. In fact, it bucks the trend most publishers embrace to favor icons over text lines in order to configure and start protections.

That's little concern for intermediate and advanced users who thrive on file trees and won't mind consulting the program's thorough help file when the tool tips aren't quite explanatory enough. Casual users who prefer to set it and forget it may wonder why Ad-Aware is so simple to schedule and run but Anti-Virus Helix takes more effort. They may also wonder why this application bundle was marketed under a new name in the first place.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.