AVG AntiVirus is Actually Malware?

Category: Anti-Virus

In many dysfunctional families Dad is a hard-working alcoholic, Mom is his long-suffering enabler, and their kids are tragically scarred victims. A very similar dynamic exists in the security suite realm. AVG is the Jekyll/Hyde father, Avast is his apologizing accomplice, and users of both brands are the traumatized children. Is my metaphor too harsh? Read on, and I'll explain my reasoning...

Is it Fair to Call AVG Malware?

It is high time for "Avast Mom" to demand that "AVG Dad" sober up and stay sober, or to take "the kids" far from him. Here are the issues that must be addressed, but first a bit of corporate history:

AVG Technologies is a Czech Republic firm founded in 1991 by Jan Gritzbach and Tomáš Hofer. The first software licenses for AVG Antivirus were sold in 1997 in the UK and Germany; the software came to the U. S. market in 1998.

Avast, Inc., is also a Czech firm, founded in 1988 by Pavel Baudiš and Eduard Kucera. The first antivirus program written for Windows 95 was the work of an Avast employee named Ondrej Vlcek. Since then, Avast Antivirus has consistently taken top honors from several independent antivirus product testing services, and is now the number one security suite on Earth in terms of installed base.

Is AVG Malware?

Avast acquired AVG for $1.3 billion in July, 2016; at that time, AVG Antivirus was the third most popular product of its kind. Since October, 2016, the two firms have operated as one, maintaining the two popular brand names, but slowly merging their technology bases. Avast went public in May, 2018, on the London Exchange, in an IPO that valued the company at $2.4 billion.

Both firms had their high and low moments in their long histories. In 2012, Avast fired its outsourced tech support service, iYogi, after it was caught using misleading sales tactics to persuade users to buy unnecessary services. Shortly after acquiring Piriform and its famous product, CCleaner, Avast discovered that someone had created a malicious version of CCleaner with a backdoor left open for hackers to use in invading users’ systems. But Avast’s missteps have been trivial compared to the drunkenly insane shenanigans of AVG.

In May, 2012, AVG Technologies issued a copyright-violation “takedown request” to YouTube which resulted in the removal of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video from YouTube. What?? Yes, you read that right; for reasons it never explained, a leading antivirus developer tried to kill the “RickRolling” meme! Fortunately (or not), YouTube quickly restored Astley’s video and RickRolling rolled on.

The Toolbar Debacle

AVG’s browser toolbar, AVG Secure Search, is obnoxious adware. Often bundled with unrelated software such as CD-burner PowerISO, Secure Search high-handedly changes a browser’s home page to AVG’s and sets its default search engine to AVG Search. The user was duped into “consenting” to these changes by a pre-checked checkbox and ambiguous text in tiny type that’s in the middle of the installation process. This reads like it’s straight out of the “slimy scammer playbook,” but it was perpetrated by one of the best-known brands in software that protects users from exactly this sort of thing!

AVG’s disingenuous defense was that a) the user consented and b) any issues must be in the installer software written by its partners, such as PowerISO. But it defies belief that a security software company would not be fully aware of how its partners are marketing its product. It is obvious that AVG was instrumental in creating the category of downloaded software known as “foistware,” which uses social engineering to foist unwanted software upon users.

Following a public flogging by Zdnet correpondent Emil Protalinski, AVG behaved like alcoholic Dad when he wakes up, hung over, to a recitation of how he trashed the house ande terrorized the kids. (Hint: he blamed everyone but himself.) AVG blamed the “inconvenience” on “outdated AVG search toolbar installer screens in circulation with a number of our partners” and swore it was working feverishly to bring those partners into “compliance with AVG's updated policies.”

Note that AVG had to update its policies, which should never have permitted this sort of chicanery in the first place. I still don’t buy this BS; it is my firm belief that AVG was a party to the development and testing of every one of its partners’ installer programs, if not the original author of the installer they all used. That makes sense; AVG’s “we knew nothing about how our company’s reputation was being mishandled” story makes no sense!

Close Encounters of the Unpleasant Kind

It was only a year later, in October, 2013, that I got fed up with AVG after using it for eight years and switched to Avast. I described in my article Why I Switched from AVG to Avast Antivirus how AVG was trying to trick users of the free version into moving to paid accounts, and how their own installer program was doing very strange things.

Which brings me to my latest up-close-and-unpleasant encounter with AVG... Back in July, 2018, I published [SHOWDOWN] Avast vs AVG, a comparison of the two heads of this dysfunctional household. Naturally, prior to that date I had to install AVG and take it for a test drive. I performed my usual preparation routine when I plan to install any software temporarily: I created a System Restore point before I installed AVG.

When I finished reviewing AVG, I uninstalled it and restored my PC to the state it was in before I installed AVG. So how did AVG pop up again on my PC just a couple of weeks ago? I don’t know, but it did, even after a System Restore, which is supposed to act like a time machine for your hard drive.

At first, the name “AVG” seemed to be appearing in popup ads on the lower-right corner of my browser window. It was part of a “tech support” scam, I thought, and wondered why Avast had not suppressed it.

But then it became clear that the popup was originating from AVG itself. I found a Programs/AVG folder, and it was full of files related to AVG Antivirus. I could not delete those files or folders; the error message said I needed permission from “administrators.” But there is only one Administrator of this machine, and that is me! Yet I could not delete folders or files from a machine over which my power is supposed to be absolute.

I found this thread in AVG.com’s Support Group, in which a very annoyed AVG user was having the same problems I am having. It is dated July 14, 2017, so AVG has been pulling these aggravating tricks for at least a year.

The solution is mentioned in that thread, though it doesn’t seem to have worked for my predecessor in suffering. I downloaded AVG_Remover.exe from the AVG Utilities library and ran it. Finally, all AVG files, folders, and registry keys are gone! But an AVG_Remover utility should not be necessary. The AVG software should be removable using the standard Windows “uninstall software” routine.

Time for Rehab

Avast, I hold you equally responsible for the wasted time and energy that I’ve endured. You own AVG; you paid $1.3 billion for it more than two years ago. You have the power of life or death over AVG. I demand that you use it to force AVG into “rehab.” Or at least do something to rehabilitate your own corporate reputation.

Maybe take all AVG products off the market until they are rewritten, top to bottom, to stop messing with me and other users. Just shelve it all, and furlough any AVG staffers who remain with Avast. Tell the latter they can come back when AVG is fixed. Maybe that will get them to fix it.

Or how about this? Make a white-label version of Avast, and call it AVG. The two programs already share the same anti-virus engine, and much of the underlying tech. Think of all the savings in both development and support costs.

Car companies have done this for decades. Back in the 1980s, for example, General Motors developed the J-car series, and sold them (with subtle changes) as the Cadillac Cimarron, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, Pontiac Sunbird, and Chevrolet Cavalier.

Most consumers who bought the more expensive Cimarron didn't understand they were driving a Cavalier with leather seats, electric mirrors and a premium sound system. And if Avast plays its cards right, they can similarly expunge the stench of AVG, and most of their customers will never know the difference.

Okay, let me cool down a bit… to be clear, I'm not saying that AVG software is trying to do anything malicious to your computer, such as stealing private information, or infecting other programs with a virus payload. But if it can change your browser’s home page, set your default search engine, and somehow survive an uninstall plus System Restore, then it does not deserve your trust, period.

Do you still use AVG? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "AVG AntiVirus is Actually Malware?"

(See all 53 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

dave
25 Aug 2018

I tried to remove AVG from a pc, using revo and editing the registry, but it came back.
Then I discovered one more file that was named Avast.
Once I removed the Avast file AVG was gone.
I only use Windows Defender and Malwarebytes for protection.


Posted by:

Samantha
25 Aug 2018

I tried AVG and it wasnt for me. Getting rid of it also a pain. Used Geek - Revo is Ok but Geek goes one step farther. Have both.
I run SAS Pro have done for around 16 yearn, s
See that BOB? this happens lately - was typing years now. CAnt find what is doing this. Can you? Googled and many more than I have this problem.
I currently running trial of premium Malabytes. Its is good but costs $90 Aussie dollars. I wonder is it worth it when havent had real problem just odd pup.


Posted by:

daz wazlle
25 Aug 2018

I used to use AVG then switched to Avast then i deleted both, they dont do anything but slow down your computer. I use Spywareblaster that blocks 1000's of malware sites thru the HOSTS file, i run occasionally SuperAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes and each night I run Advanced system care and Privazer as well as the old microsoft REGCLEAN and I never have any problems!


Posted by:

john
25 Aug 2018

Bob, Of all people who preach back ups, you should know better. The only true restore point is an image backup. However, your mistake led you to discover the unethical behavior of AVG. Excellent topic as it did bring out a lot of good comments and suggestions.


Posted by:

Lou
25 Aug 2018

AVG is to AVAST what Cingular was to ATT. A few of us still remember that merger in which Cingular was one of the best telephone companies around. That is until ATT came and offered a few million for a merger. Then it all went downhill for Cingular. ATT started chipping away the best parts of Cingular (Customer Service, great plans, and so forth.)

Then people started switching from Cingular to ATT, as its service became crappy, which made ATT look good and a better option. (When in reality ATT is less than desirable.)

This is a practice all big companies do to destroy the competition and bounce customers around for their own purposes. The truth is that now, neither AVG, nor AVAST are the best choices for antivirus... (Right, Bob?) Don't be fooled, some of the best antivirus software are less known, but better work horses than these two. Thanks for your article, Bob.


Posted by:

aa1234aa
25 Aug 2018

About uninstalling: The Windows control panel program remover uses an uninstall directive file which is provided by the vendor of the software you are trying to remove. So, it's up to the software manufacturer to decide what to actually remove or leave behind. All software programs leave something behind, especially in the Registry. Using the Windows program remover is only the first step. You can cleanup after a Windows uninstall, but it takes lots of searches to find the bits and pieces, some of which may not have a recognizable name associated with the software you "removed". Programs tend to hide files and markers in just about anywhere on your drive, so you’ll need a real search tool to find them (by “real” I mean NOT the bogus Windows search engine. Try something like https://www.mythicsoft.com/agentransack/ ).

About not having Admin rights: That's true, the administrator account that you set up your computer with is not a real, all-powerful administrator. There is a System-level administrator (similar to root in Linux) to which you don't have access and cannot get access to unless you have a Pro or higher version of Windows. Even then, you must spend a lot of time fiddling with dozens of esoteric permission settings. The problem with opening up all permissions for a typical user is that you become more vulnerable on the internet. Sometimes you can by-pass the “access denied” message by booting in Safe Mode and then deleting files. Sometimes, and curiously, you can rename a file that you can’t delete, reboot and then delete the renamed file (but, in most cases exhibiting this behavior, there is some other hidden running process which will recreate the file you renamed).

About AVG surviving a Restore: As I said above, programs tend to hide markers anywhere on your drive. Just as a Restore point cannot remove a virus, it cannot remove all markers left by a program. A Windows Restore does not replace the entire Registry or all the contents of Windows OS folders. It only selectively restores certain files and settings, so it cannot possibly eliminate all hidden files installed by a program. Bob said that after uninstalling AVG, there were ads in his browser. This could happen even if you delete all your cookies because any site with affiliation with AVG/AVAST can run a script searching for the AVG markers and then generate an ad. Or the script can install and run a process on your machine to generate an ad.

Bob said that “an AVG_Remover utility should not be necessary”. If the world was a nice and fair place that would be true, but AVG is not the only software to behave this way. McAfee, Norton, Adobe, Kaspersky all cling to your machine like leaches and there are special “remover” tools for those also. In fact, there is one for Microsoft’s Security Essentials (predecessor or Defender).


Posted by:

SharonH
25 Aug 2018

As one commenter has posted, uninstalling anything with Revo Uninstaller is an eye-opener as far as learning how programs that had been supposedly uninstalled leave behind a huge chunk of registry entries. Nowadays, using just a simple uninstall will not cut it. There are even videos on YouTube showing how to completely uninstall both AVG and AVAST--the latter's newest version had literally taken over my computer.

Today I use Windows Defender. I find it easy to use (making sure it is updated) and have no problems at all. Together with Malwarebytes and CCleaner, I feel like I am "good to go". I've had it with the Big Guys.


Posted by:

Joseph PALMERE
25 Aug 2018

I went thru the same scenario as you Bob, using AVG and had to remove it by going to their website and using the removal tool but not before getting a lot headaches with the program.


Posted by:

rolo
25 Aug 2018

Avast is also deceptive in upselling , laying claim that pc issues need attention . HENCE , make a purchase to fix and clean . WELL ,I have a new Dell XPS - paid Avast subscription & AdvancedSystem Care . ASC finds nothing that Avast claims . That's my only beef w/ Avast . Otherwise Avast has served well . I dropped AVG yrs ago .


Posted by:

John Noble
25 Aug 2018

Bob, after reading this article I looked at your recommended anti-virus programs. I chose to go with Bitfender, in fact purchased their basic offering.

After installing the program my computer was continually shutting down, you could not access any thing. Maybe AVG is not the only downloader of malware.

I removed the program and returned to AVG. Next will be trying to get my money back.


Posted by:

Chris
25 Aug 2018

I am soooo glad I changed to Linux at the demise of windows XP. So far so good.


Posted by:

memo
26 Aug 2018

As a PC technician for many years, I've tried all the anti-viruses software.
When AVG was available the first time i didn't like its behavior.
I have clean many infected pc's and removed AVG in the process. You mentioned "AVG’s browser toolbar" this was the first to go.
P.S. I have used Avast since it came to the market and have never changed it.


Posted by:

Rajan
26 Aug 2018

I use Win 8.0 version (free upgraded to 8.1) on my desktop. Recently I installed Reason Core Security AV prog which came with Foxit Reader. Surprisingly, it detected some threats which my Win Defender could not so far. Is it safe and advisable to use Reason alongwith Defender?


Posted by:

Karena
27 Aug 2018

My mother-in-law has been paying for a subscription to Avast - I just found this out when she asked me for help getting her money back: they charged her twice for her renewal, and it was a huge ordeal getting it straightened out. To be fair, they did finally get it taken care of, but it took a couple of weeks, many mixed messages, and many contacts with customer service to get it taken care of. It really looked a whole lot like they were trying to get more than they were owed, and trying to drag it out so long that she would just give up. (At one point, they gave her a partial refund and she had to persist to get the remainder - her billing receipt showed a different (lower) amount that what was actually charged to her credit card.) I didn't know that AVG was owned by Avast, and now that I do, I know that I will avoid them both - I don't trust Avast.


Posted by:

Tom
27 Aug 2018

We used to use AVG on our corporate computers when I first started with the company. After getting a serious virus we dropped them and went to using Eset Antivirus. I just don't trust any antivirus software that is free anymore.


Posted by:

Diana
27 Aug 2018

I dumped AVG after many years of use when they started their crap. If memory serves, I had to remove several things manually or maybe I did use the removal tool. Either way, I agree wholeheartedly with you Bob on this one.

I will never give AVG another chance.


Posted by:

David Hakala
28 Aug 2018

Nezzat, shill for Geek Squad and/or Webroot: “You get what you pay for, so maybe you guys ought to fork over some money and forego the worry of the the free stuff.”

I have paid for Advanced System Care Pro for many years but iObit still tries to pull sneaky upsell crap on this “valued customer” every single day. All freemium firms that I know do the same. It has gotten out of hand and it deserves even more excoriation than Bob offers.



Posted by:

Patty
31 Aug 2018

Agree with article.Soon after purchasing AVG, I kept getting issues. I smelled a rat, however contacted them for support anyway. They said it was because product was designed for Win 10 and I'm using 7. OK,so they worked on it remotely however kept on having issues. Finally took tower to my reliable local tech guys who affirmed that the problem was AVG, and they took it off. LOL, no more issues! Since I was 9 months into a 2 year subscription,with their discreditable reputation, I can only hope I get a refund for the remainder.


Posted by:

Shirley Pipitone
06 Sep 2018

I suspect all antivirus software is malware to some extent. Anything that gets so deep into your PC and is so hard to uninstall has to be suspect. I used Norton for many years until I tired of the interference. It was extremely difficult to remove all traces.
Then I used AVG until recently. I got sick of it trying to sell me stuff I don't need such as VPN, and its PC Tools even removed itself from my QuickLaunch bar (yes, I love QuickLaunch). Since I used Norton, I've discovered Revo so I now use it as the first step in removing antivirus software. AVG was still was very difficult to remove - took me about 6 hours. I use FileSearchEx to search for leftovers and I delete manually as much as Microsoft allows me to, as the Administrator. I recently glimpsed an article about setting up the real Windows Administrator as I was closing a tab. I'll be searching for it soon.
About a week ago I switched to BitDefender because PCMag recommended it. After 3 & a half days and no end of problems, I uninstalled it. BD has no Help facility at all except for the Chat infacility and I won't get started on Chat. The only good thing I can say about BD is that it was exceptionally easy to uninstall. Gone in one operation with Revo.
Now I'm using McAfee and the jury is out. So far no issues at all. Love reading your articles, Bob. Keep it up.


Posted by:

N0o8
10 Sep 2018

I used to use AVG for years and was satisfied with it. I was not aware of any of the issues discussed in this article. I stopped using AVG when I confirmed that it was slowing my computer to the point that I almost couldn't use it. I use Windows Defender and Malwarebytes now. I discovered by accident that CrapCleaner has an uninstaller that works very well.


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