AVG LinkScanner examines in real time the web pages behind links and URLs to assess their potential danger. Available free for Windows XP and Windows Vista users, it's designed to offer an extra real-time layer of protection for web users who already use a security software suite. AVG today told PC Advisor that a Windows 7 build already exists, and will be available shortly after the OS launches.
LinkScanner works with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
If AVG LinkScanner finds something nasty lurking behind a URL, it simply stops the user from downloading that page. AVG LinkScanner applies similar analysis to search results from Google, Yahoo! and MSN, as well as your browser's existing bookmarks. Such links are given safety ratings.
AVG's VP Product Management, Paul Burke, told PC Advisor in a conference call that LinkScanner looked for malware signature patterns as it scans individual pages. If it finds suspicious code on part of a page, it will block that frame from downloading while it investigates further. An algorythm determines at what point a page tips over from being merely suspected to being blocked.
Users can opt-in to allow AVG to store and analyse data from their PC's LinkScanner probes. This is potentlally hugely valuable data, as AVG told PC Advisor that it estimates around 2 million web pages are infected each day, many of them legitimate sites poisoned by third-party cybercriminals. AVG has previously attempted to contact the owners of such infected sites.
AVG LinkScanner was already part of existing AVG Security products. AVG has an installed userbase of around 80 million users.
By scanning sites in real time, AVG hopes to provide accurate and up to date analysis of their security status. This also means that individual sites, rather than entire domains, are checked - important in the context of a social-networking site, for instance. But AVG told PC Advisor that LinkScanner is sufficiently processor light that it won't affect PC performance. This is because it uses client-side scanning, and checks only web-page code - a relatively light process.
"It's our belief that every computer user has the right to basic security protection, regardless of the ability to pay," said J R Smith, AVG Technologies' CEO.
"These dangerous web pages threaten to disrupt the very fabric of the internet as well as how we view and use it; posing an even bigger threat to users than viruses.
"Our 80 million users are already protected by AVG LinkScanner, which has been an essential part of our suite of security products for some time. So now we're making it available to users of other major security software brands, who just don't have the same degree or protection.
"Now any PC user can surf and search the web with confidence and without fear of losing their ID, bank account information, credit card details, valuable files and information to cybercrooks."
"The web has become the primary distribution mechanism for viruses (and other malware), drive-by downloads and other stealthy web threats which represent vast majority of attacks," said AVG Technologies CTO Karel Obluk.
"So we've evolved our product range to put greater emphasis on combating this more insidious and dangerous form of attack. AVG LinkScanner is at the front line of this additional protective layer. It's our goal, by making this layer freely available, to give users the confidence to always feel safe when they go online."