Never before have people had such access to information, nor ease with which to conduct personal business such as banking finance, purchasing consumer goods and services, or simply communicating with friends, family, or colleagues around the world. However, with this technology comes the risk of falling victim to criminals and thieves who are always trying to game the system and take advantage of people. Because technology is a double-edged sword, crooks and cheats can steal vital information whether to steal your savings or assume your identity. It’s incumbent upon people to remain vigilant and protect themselves with the latest in security technology.
The folks at Avast have a solution, the Avast SafeZone Browser. This is a free browser based on Opera and using a Chromium engine. It’s not a standalone application, rather it’s a component of all Avast antivirus offerings (Free Antivirus, Pro Antivirus, Internet Security, and Premier).
This web browser comes with many security features built in and can be deployed directly from the Avast Antivirus software. Because it’s a comprehensive solution to securing activity on the web, there is no need for additional privacy extensions or features. Additionally, third party extensions are blocked. Among the features users will come to rely upon are:
1. Anti-malware security: Malware refers to software designed to infect or invade your computer. Types of malware include viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, phishing, etc. Hackers use these programs to steal passwords, money, or locking users out of their own systems.
2. Add-ons: Avast SafeZone Browser comes with several add-ons to further enhance security and your browsing experience. The add-ons include:
The Online Security add-on which insulates your computer from malware and warns users when they’re visiting a site with a nefarious reputation.
Ad Blocker does exactly what its name says. There is no setup required, just start your browsing session and let the ad blocker do its thing. To view the number of ads blocked simply view the icon in the navigation panel. You can also disable or customize Ad Blocker to allow ads on specific sites or a specific ad element on a particular page.
Video Downloaderis a pre-installed, built-in plugin that makes downloading video and audio content from your favorite sites (YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Instagram, etc.) easy and safe. Most downloads are in the MP4 format. To download, simply hover over the video until the orange download icon appears, click on it and the video will begin to download to your computer so you can play it at a later date, even if you’re not online.
SafePrice: This Avast add-on improves your online shopping experience by monitoring online shopping platforms. As you shop and select items for purchase, it alerts you to offers on sites that have better prices to save you money.
Passwords: Easy and straightforward, this is Avast’s password manager that keeps passwords and login information secure, and it enables users to quickly login and fill out information. It includes features to help you manage passwords across multiple devices making web browsing even more streamlined.
3. Bank Mode: The premier feature of the Avast SafeZone Browser, users can open bank sites up in this specialized mode that provides security for financial and commercial transactions while protecting the user from hazardous content. Formerly called Pay Mode, this feature provides a virtual desktop, or sandbox, that acts as a safe computer within your computer. It’s configured to trigger when visiting banking sites, however there may be some that don’t automatically trigger Bank Mode. In such cases simply clicking on the credit card icon will allow you to add sites to the list.
Using incognito windows, this environment isolates browsing sessions and protects users from a hijacked host or network and stops keyloggers and network-based eavesdropping from pilfering vital information and data. These incognito windows erase browsing history, cache, passwords, everything once you close them. This allows you do your banking and online shopping with confidence even when using public computers.
Avast SafeZone Browser, as any software, is not without its share of criticisms. In 2016 its rollout took users by surprise when those using Avast Antivirus software found that the browser was installed automatically without any notification.
Unfortunately, this was not the only issue associated with Avast SafeZone Browser. Avast’s Chromium fork was discovered to bring a series of problems, one of which allowed attacks that enabled attackers to read and list files on your computer after clicking on a malicious link. Investigations into the problem revealed that malicious commands could be sent to an RPC endpoint that was left open in the browser’s core engine.
Naturally, the irony of an antivirus software installing software on a computer that delivered a live backdoor unbeknown to customers, enabling attacks in such a manner was not lost on savvy users. Their irritation was understandable and ranged from the annoyed to the palpably outraged, going so far as to mock the company by connecting the brand ‘Avast’ with the popular jargon used by pirates.
Despite a bumpy beginning, Avast SafeZone Browser recovered quickly to patch up its flaws and deliver quality security in addition to its antivirus software. In protection tests, Avast scored high marks for detecting and blocking more threats than the industry standard. Its usability is also higher than the industry standards making it attractive to users. Some shortcomings to consider are the lack of parental controls built into the application and a tendency to cause your computer to run slower. Despite these, Avast SafeZone Browser garners high marks and provides value.