SafePrice, Avast and Sneaky Browser Plugins

For many years now I have been using Avast as my anti-virus on my Windows computers. For the majority of that time it has been simple to use and generally non-invasive. However, in the past few months that has dramatically changed.

The first big change has been avast prompting to update software updates for almost every installed application. While this may be helpful for the vast majority of people who do not regularly update their systems, I’ve grown to ignore random pop-ups that say my computer is out of date – because the vast majority of the time they are scams/ads themselves. Saying my system is at critical risk because I haven’t updated an application in the last 24 hours is overkill – especially when the application specific updater isn’t prompting for the update.

Today’s inappropriate interruption from Avast is much more annoying and down right unethical – especially as I did not authorise this behaviour in the application. Below is a screen shot of a produce page from a trustworthy and popular online store I visit on a regular basis.

Avast SafePrice Website Takeover
Avast SafePrice Website Takeover


After clicking onto the page below proper, the majority of the overlay disappeared leaving on the Lower Prices Found! banner across the top of the page.

Avast SafePrice Website Bar
Avast SafePrice Website Bar

At first I thought my browser or the website had been hijacked because this was a completely bizarre thing to see on an online store. On second thoughts I thought maybe the site had joined some sort of industry collective type thing to ensure they have a good reputation and good prices – but this seemed very unusual. What was even more bizarre is this banner was suggesting I purchased a product through EBay (sic) – which I would generally consider to be far more risky than going through a good online store.

A Google search for SafePrice locates only a few posts on the Avast user forums, suggesting this is their product. Going further into the browser plugin settings I come across this:

Avast Browser Settings
Avast Browser Settings

Block social networks by default – checked, Block ad traffic by default – checked, SafePrice – checked. Wait what? Why are these enabled, I didn’t enable these, why does Avast decide to make these decisions that heavily influence the browsing experience without any user authorisation?

In addition to the SafePrice behaviour, the blocking of social networks all of a sudden explains the problem I have been having with Disqus blog comments and Spotify web player.

Avast disabling Disqus
Avast disabling Disqus

Avast disabling Spotify
Avast disabling Spotify

Disqus working after disabling Avast
Disqus working after disabling Avast

Spotify working after disabling Avast
Spotify working after disabling Avast

As a user I’m annoyed at Avast for enabling these settings by default. The majority of average web-users even if they found the settings they would have no idea what any of them mean or how they have such a dramatic effect on the browser-experience.

Even more so, if I was the owner of a website that was being disrupted by this plugin I would be seeking damages against Avast. They are actively driving customers away from legitimate shopping sites and breaking the function of others – it has taken me weeks to work out Avast was the cause of broken Spotify and Disqus websites.

Meanwhile, I’m now on a hunt for a new non-invasive anti-virus.