AhnLab V3 Click review

AhnLab V3 Click takes a novel approach to antivirus protection. This glowing puck-shaped USB gadget tries to make antivirus protection as fun and unobtrusive as possible. AhnLab got the fun part right. Let's hope the next version also get the antivirus part right.
Photo of AhnLab V3 Click

I never thought I’d use the words “antivirus” and “fun” in the same sentence. Sure, it’s important to keep your computer free of viruses, Trojans, and other malicious apps, but nothing about that is fun, especially those scary or complicated warnings that always seem to pop up at the worst time. And yet, using AhnLab V3 Click actually is kind of fun.

V3 Click is a USB antivirus gadget that also functions as a USB hub. It’s not a bootable solution like FixMeStick 2013, nor is it a no-install antivirus like Emsisoft Emergency Kit 2.0. However, it’s extremely easy to use, and your $49.99/year subscription lets you use it on any number of computers, one at a time. Renewal costs $19.99/year, and the product updates automatically.

The puck-shaped V3 Click has two USB ports on its rim and a large glowing button on top. You click the button to initiate actions such as launching a scan, and its color reflects program status. If it’s green, everything’s good. Blue means its busy either scanning or updating. A red button indicates that the antivirus needs your attention; click the button! If the driver isn’t installed, or your subscription has run out, or some other problem occurs, the button turns orange. Simple!

When you plug a USB device into one of the V3 Click’s ports, it automatically scans the device for malware. In Windows Explorer, V3 Click shows up as two drives, a virtual CD that contains the antivirus installer and a regular USB storage device that you can use to store and transport about 2.5GB of files.

Installation Animation
The first time you connect V3 Click with a computer, it automatically installs a local antivirus client. The installer plays a little anime-style cartoon that uses images and sound to explain the thinking behind this product.

In the cartoon, a fellow is just about to save his work on the computer when he’s interrupted by dozens of antivirus popups. Look closely; you may see your antivirus among the stylized popups. Eventually the computer explodes, and the fellow wishes for a little genie that would take care of antivirus tasks. V3 Click to the rescue!

If you keep watching the video after installation is complete, you’ll get a full run-through of the user manual, which is, in itself, a little goofy. Yes, many product manuals warn users to avoid letting the product get wet or over heated. V3 Click’s manual illustrates these concepts with a fisherman using the device as bait and another device going into the oven on a tray of cookies.

The designers clearly aimed for a conversational tone in the interface. Instead of quick scan, full scan, and real-time protection, V3 Click offers “Clean Wise,” “Clean Wide,” and “Stay Awake.” Rather than “More Info,” it says “Wanna see details?” And if you haven’t yet scanned the system, rather than “Last scan: never” it says “Oh my god! You haven’t run it?”

I was pleasantly surprised that the product installed on all but one of my malware-infested test systems with no need for help from tech support. In a couple cases the system crashed during install, forcing me to try again, but retrying did the job.

The one exception was a test system that can only run in Safe Mode due to ransomware that prevents use of regular Windows. V3 Click’s installer simply doesn’t work in Safe Mode, so it couldn’t clean that test system at all. My AhnLab contacts say that Safe Mode installation is under consideration for a future version.

Now, the Bad News
V3 Click cleaned up my twelve malware-infested test systems, but not very well. It left behind executable traces for a third of the samples, and a quarter of those were still running. Overall, it detected 74 percent of the samples and scored 5.2 points for malware cleanup. When I tested AhnLab’s V3 Secure Cloud with my previous set of samples, it detected 76 percent and earned 5.0 points.

With 82 percent detection and 6.3 points, FixMeStick did a much better job of malware cleanup. That’s pretty close to the top score of 6.6 points, shared by Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013 and Norton AntiVirus (2013) .

Nearly a third of products tested with my current malware collection have detected 100 percent of the samples that use rootkit technology in an attempt to evade detection. Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2013) proved most effective against rootkits, with 9.4 of 10 possible points, while FixMeStick came in second with 9.2.

As for V3 Click, rootkits just aren’t its thing. Its score of 3.6 points isn’t the lowest among recently-tested products, but it’s near the bottom. The average score for rootkit removal is 6.3 points. For a full explanation of how I derive these scores, see How We Test Malware Removal.

AhnLab V3 Click malware removal chart

Malware Blocking Fail
It’s true that V3 Click scored more points in my malware blocking test than in the malware removal test, but unlike most products it actually performed substantially worse. Its score was sixth from lowest in the removal test, second from lowest in the blocking test. Granted, there is a big gap between V3 Click 7.7 points and the 4.8 points earned by bottom-scorer Anvi Smart Defender. Still, it really seems like the Stay Awake feature was asleep at the switch.

When V3 Click detects a malicious file, it doesn’t make a fuss. It simply wipes out the problem file. I single-clicked on each file and gave it a few minutes to do its job. It wiped out 55 percent of the samples on sight, which is a bit low. The last six products I tested eliminated over 80 percent of samples at this stage; Webroot got 95 percent of them.

The antivirus did kick in when I tried to launch the remaining threats, knocking out quite a few of them during installation. A few managed to plant executable files despite V3 Click’s attempts at blocking, and one even managed to launch.

Rootkits are easier to deal with before they’ve dug their claws into Windows. Over 80 percent of current products detected 100 percent of the rootkits in this test, and over half of those scored a perfect 10 points for rootkit blocking. Here again V3 Click is near the bottom, with 6.6 points for rootkit blocking. For more details about my malware blocking test see How We Test Malware Blocking.

AhnLab V3 Click malware blocking chart

V3 Click frequently popped up a window asking permission to submit a suspicious file for analysis, with an option to just always allow submitting files. However, this report by no means indicates that the file is malicious. When I tried installing twenty older PCMag utilities, it asked to report every single one of them. Worse, it erroneously identified two of them as Trojans.

The Labs Agree
I always refer to test results from independent antivirus labs, since my own hands-on testing isn’t as extensive as what they can do. In this case the labs have tested AhnLab’s technology, but not the V3 Click device itself. ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs do both certify it for virus detection; West Coast adds certification for virus removal. In 7 of the last 10 tests by Virus Bulletin, AhnLab earned the VB100 award. But the good news ends there.

Austrian lab AV-Comparatives assigns the STANDARD rating to products that meet all expectations. Those that exceed expectations can earn the rating ADVANCED or ADVANCED+. In three major tests by AV-Comparatives, AhnLab didn’t reach the STANDARD level.

AV-Test regularly runs antivirus certification tests under various Windows versions. Each product can earn up to six points each for repair of malware damage, protection against new attacks, and general usability. To achieve certification, a product’s scores must total 11 of 18 possible points. AhnLab eked out 11 points in the latest Windows 7 test, but failed with 10 points in the most recent test under Windows XP.

For more information about the independent labs that I follow, please read How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

AhnLab V3 Click lab tests chart

Even So, I Like It
AhnLab V3 Click scored poorly on my tests and on the independent lab tests, but I really hope it doesn’t fail. I like the slightly goofy interface, the glowing antivirus puck, and the overall irreverent attitude. Perhaps the company could license a secondary antivirus engine? This product is a perfect antidote to some of the old-school, feature-laden, popup-happy security products I review.

For now, you may want to get one as a conversation starter, but you shouldn’t rely on it as your only source of antivirus protection. Consider adding AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2013, PCMag’s Editors’ Choice for free antivirus. Of course you’ll have to disable real time protection in one product or the other, to avoid conflict. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013 is also an Editors’ Choice, and it’s tiny. Norton AntiVirus (2013) is another good choice. When the next version of V3 Click comes out, I hope it’s just as amusing and rather better at the antivirus business.

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Tech Support Email and 24/7 toll-free phone support.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Type Business, Personal, Professional

AhnLab V3 Click takes a novel approach to antivirus protection. This glowing puck-shaped USB gadget tries to make antivirus protection as fun and unobtrusive as possible. AhnLab got the fun part right. Let's hope the next version also get the antivirus part right.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc