AVG Technologies has announced that its latest anti-virus software, AVG 9 with added protections, will remain free. The new software is expected to be released in mid-October and is specifically slated to counter the introduction by Microsoft of the Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus program. Everyone always asks: Why does anyone give away software? Isn’t it just junk?

Each of us has our own favorite anti-virus software programs and our reasons for using the brand we do. I personally believe that whatever you use is up to you. Though there has been some bad-mouthing of AVG, and now MSE, the bottom line is, if it works for you, go ahead and keep it.

AVG is announcing the following improvements in its new software:

AVG Technologies has made itself into a familiar name on the Internet by giving users antivirus software at a pretty good price: free. That’s how it got 85 million users. Today, the company is announcing that the ninth version of its AVG antivirus software will be available in mid-October.

AVG is also announcing today it has received a $200 million investment from TA Associates, a private equity firm, which bought the stake in AVG from current investors.

AVG’s newest product runs 50 percent faster than its previous version. And it offers a new way to protect against identity theft, a problem that has been mushrooming in recent years.

“We’ve made it faster and easier to install,” said J.R. Smith, chief executive of the company.

Now the software takes about 11 mouse clicks to install, compared to 22 before. It’s the little innovations like this that have helped the company snag 40 percent of the worldwide free antivirus software market.

The new suite of software has basic antivirus protection. But it also includes layers of protections such as a firewall, anti-spyware, and Link Scanner. The latter examines the search results in your Internet searches and tells you whether those links are safe to click. LinkScanner frequently updates its scans of a link; that’s important now because many sites are hijacked and what was a safe site yesterday could be a dangerous site today.

The firewall now works faster because it often acts on its own, rather than asking users if they really want to use a software program that they just clicked upon.

After AVG looks for known threats, it enlists help from the cloud, where it taps “behavioral” technology that figures out if a new file or link is behaving in a suspicious way. With such technology, AVG can block a new virus even if that virus isn’t in the known library of viruses.

AVG is including identity theft protection, dubbed Identity Guard in the new free version of the software. Victims of identity theft can find help through the AVG software’s security toolbar, which can direct them to identity theft experts, who are available by phone. Those AVG experts can help users obtain credit reports and monitor their accounts. AVG will provide the identity theft recovery process at no cost.

It seems that the new AVG 9 will have many new features that should add more protections to our computers. The firewall and ID theft feature are nice touches. I can’t wait to try out the new software and see how it works.

IMHO, AVG makes a very good product.

Comments welcome.