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In today’s world, you need all the security you can get. An antivirus is great, but we recommend a blended security solution. This reduces your chances of falling victim to new threats like ransomware and zero-day exploits.
Many antirivus companies offer free browser extensions that you can install without using the full product. Let’s take a look at Avira’s Browser Safety (ABS) extension and see how it stacks up to other powerful web protection.
Getting to Know Avira Browser Safety
Head to the Browser Safety homepage to add it to your browser of choice. As of this writing, you can install the extension on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Edge, Internet Explorer, and Safari can’t use it yet, but if you visit the page in those browsers you can enter your email address. You’ll get a notification when it’s ready for them.
You won’t find many options to configure using Browser Safety. Click the extension’s icon on your toolbar and you’ll see that it automatically blocks all kinds of tracking around the web. ABS also enables Do Not Track in your browser, but most sites don’t honor this and you can easily turn it on in your browser manually anyway.
Aside from tracking protection, ABS offers safe browsing by protecting you from harmful websites. In Google and Bing searches, you’ll see a little a green check or red X to show if a site is safe or not. This provides a nice alternative to Web of Trust, which breached its users’ privacy a few months ago.
If you try to visit a website that ABS thinks is unsafe, it will block your access. You can tell it to never block that site or visit it anyway in the case of a false positive. Clicking Take me away! redirects you to Avira SafeSearch. This is an inferior search engine that still includes unsafe sites in its results page for some reason.
The other half of Browser Safety’s security protection is blocking downloads that contain extra crap bundled in. Unfortunately, a lot of popular free software includes extra junk you don’t need, so weeding it out sounds like a great help.
However, ABS fell flat in our testing. We downloaded uTorrent, a BitTorrent client known for bundling in loads of garbage, and didn’t hear a peep out of ABS. It didn’t have a problem with CutePDF either, which bundles similar offers.
On Firefox and Opera (not Chrome), ABS also includes a price comparison tool. When shopping on a compatible site, Avira will provide links to the same product available for less elsewhere. It promises that sites it links to are always safe, and offers coupons to try on the site you’re using. These coupons looked like a copied and pasted list right from RetailMeNot or a similar website. It offered deals like “25 percent off appliances storewide” instead of coupon codes.
Features Better Found Elsewhere
While Avira Browser Safety’s feature set sounds great at first, once you examine it you’ll find that this extension doesn’t really offer you anything useful.
The anti-tracking features are okay, but you can get more control with the best extensions for securing your privacy. One of the top tools for this, Disconnect, allows you more control over what you want to block and makes whitelisting a particular site easy. We already mentioned how enabling Do Not Track in your browser is something you can do alone in seconds.
Having the extension block unsafe sites and label them in Google is mostly redundant. Modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge know which sites contain malware and already warn you when accessing them. Google is smart about dangerous sites and won’t recommend them at the top of its results.
You can’t always trust these tools to make the right call, so you have to use a little common sense. Hopefully, most users don’t need a browser extension to tell them that Free-Screensavers.com is a shady site.
ABS’ supposed blocking of software that includes extra crapware didn’t work at all. You can instead circumvent unsafe downloads by only downloading software from reputable sources and using Unchecky to automatically deselect bundled software offers.
Providing links to other sites so you can easily compare prices is convenient, but this is another place where Avira’s tool is bested by others. The extension’s URLs likely contain affiliate links that help the company make money. You can get better results with a dedicated comparison tool that compares historical prices, too. We weren’t impressed with ABS’ coupon codes — instead check out extensions that will really help you find the best coupons.
You Don’t Need Avira Browser Safety
As we’ve seen, Avira Browser Safety offers little to the end user. Even worse than the above considerations are the past privacy and security concerns that antivirus extensions have caused. Antivirus browser extensions can interfere with your browser’s normal functions and even snoop on your traffic, like Superfish did. This is all on top of the tracking your antivirus already does.
Assuming you’re using a good antivirus, you can skip ABS without concern because your antivirus program watches for online threats just fine. There are better extensions for tracking protection and price comparisons, modern browsers already protect you from unsafe sites, and the crapware blocking by this extension doesn’t even work. If you really want a second opinion on what’s safe or not, you could do far worse than this tool, but common sense is a much better shield.
For more on website security, check out the sites that are most likely to infect you with malware.
Do you use Avira Browser Safety or another antivirus browser extension? Let us know why you keep them installed and if you’ll try some of these alternative tools down in the comments!