Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (2014)

An antivirus utility that removes and defends against viruses, Trojans, rootkits, spyware, and all types of malicious software is totally doing its job. Yes, some vendors pack all sorts of goodies into their nominally stand-alone antivirus tools, but those goodies aren't required. The relatively new Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (2014) sticks with the essentials, and does quite a good job.

Bitdefender Free is clearly meant to be as unobtrusive as possible. There's no configuration required, none at all. The most you can do is turn off real-time protection and turn off the background automatic scan?but why would you do that? The main window is tiny, and it vanishes any time you click on another window. If the real-time protection or the background scanner find and fix any problems, you'll get a transient balloon notification near the product's system tray icon. This makes it a great choice for those who want an antivirus that just quietly does its job.

Like Norton, Kaspersky, and some others, Bitdefender no longer applies a version number or year number to the antivirus or other security products. I've appended (2014) to the name, so we can distinguish this edition from future number-free editions.

Some Installation Woes
Bitdefender Free's installer runs a quick scan that's intended to wipe out any active malware that might interfere with the installation process. The pre-installs scan did find problems on several test systems. I got the product up and running on eight of my twelve malware-infested test systems with no trouble.

Ransomware made installation impossible on one system, and malware actively killed the installer on another. On advice from tech support, I downloaded and burned a copy of Bitdefender's impressive Rescue CD. A Rescue CD scan solved both of these problems.

I worked with tech support through email, since that's the only way users of the free edition get support. I will confess that I got super-expedited email service, to speed the completion of my testing.

On one test system the system repeatedly hung during Bitdefender's installation. After a scan with the Rescue CD, I managed to install the product. However, the system had totally lost connectivity. A good bit of email back and forth with tech support got this system's connectivity restored.

Another test system suffers a ton of visibly active malware processes including what I had thought to be a fake antivirus. Bitdefender Free identified it as a real antivirus from China and asked to have it removed to avoid a conflict. It would appear that this antivirus was installed as a kind of smokescreen by a malware program that it doesn't detect; very tricky!

On this system the pre-install scan requested a reboot to finish its cleanup not once by twice. Unfortunately, after the second reboot the system got stuck in an endless loop of logging off and logging on; it would not start. The tech support team requested logs generated in the Rescue CD environment. Cleaning up this system using the Rescue CD took over 24 hours! Tech support sent scripts to perform fixes and gather more data. Over a period of several days they managed to get the collateral damage to this system repaired.

The free Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 installed on all my test systems without any problem. Admittedly, these were test systems infested with my previous malware collection, and Malwarebytes is strictly a cleanup tool, with no ongoing protection. Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 also installed with little or no trouble, and it did the job on the same systems that gave Bitdefender Free so much trouble.


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