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Archive for March, 2011
March 28th, 2011

Malware stops the music at Spotify.com

Malware stopped the music at Spotify.com – especially for listeners in Sweden and the UK.

According to the avast! Virus Lab, the majority of Spotify users reporting the malware were in Sweden (59%), followed by a large group (40%) in the UK. The remaining 1% came from other countries. There were no reports from France – an interesting twist due to the large avast! user base there.

The poisoned ads were likely served up in specific geographic areas, resulting in the predominance of Swedish and UK reports. Geographic dispersal is a function of how and where Spotify operates as they don’t have the right to distribute music in the United States.

The malware was contained in a poisoned advertisement, with the PDF exploit “JS:Pdfka-gen [Expl]“, attempting to put a fake antivirus on visitors’ computers.  According to VirusTotal, we were the first ones to detect the pdf. The attack took place during the week of March 21, 2011.

For a detailed report on the Spotify attack,  read the websense.com report.

March 21st, 2011

5 Questions with Lukáš Hasík (QA Director)

When the Marketing/PR department was trying to transition to the company’s new project tracking system, it was difficult explaining how each task in our department can be so unique… but that didn’t phase Lukas, who (like me) was still fairly new at AVAST. He helped us determine an overall scheme, with variously detailed project subcategories that made sense. He suggested solutions that could be more easily optimized in the future. And, in terms of QA, that’s exactly how you want to handle things. –Jason Mashak

Lukas Hasik (QA Director)

1. The “QA” in your title is a bit abstract – what types of projects at AVAST are you responsible for the quality of?

In terms of avast! 6.0, we test the antivirus regularly and report any bugs in new features. As avast! is the most widespread antivirus software, the product also has great community support that includes a group of avast! Forum evangelists who help with the testing of every new Beta release. The community makes good suggestions and their help allows us to verify that avast! works on thousands of different configurations.

There are also other projects being built in AVAST’s offices that we put our hands on, such as testing the upcoming Business Protection and Business Protection Plus (administration console) for small business customers.  And Mac users should start looking forward to a new version of avast! for Mac.  Read more…

March 21st, 2011

Android is calling: Walk and Text and be Malicious

Our original blog entry about an malicious version of an IncorporateApps Android application called “Walk and Text” generated some very contentious comments from the author/distributor/publisher of the legitimate application. So, we decided to rewrite the posting to make things a bit clearer:

One of our analysts received (from one of their friends) the SMS that you see down below. We thought it was intriguing and we decided to investigate. We found the infected “Walk and Text” application on the internet (it is not of course on the official Google marketplace) and tore it apart.

We initially thought it was just a classic Android Trojan. Since the bad guys do like to hide viruses/Trojans inside pirated applications, this seemed a very reasonable explanation. The application was also signed but with a profane signature and thus there was no way it would ever be published on a legitimate marketplace. It did two things. First, it sent the above-mentioned SMS to the contacts in the user’s Android phone contact book.

Read more…

March 17th, 2011

Attack of the semi-fake antivirus

We know what fake antivirus is: malware posing as real antivirus while hijacking your computer and wallet. Then there is real antivirus: applications such as avast! and our competitors.

And now there is a third category: semi-fake antivirus. It’s not a blatant malware attack and may actually include a real antivirus application. From a strictly technical perspective, it might not even be called malware.

But one thing is clear: it is still taking money from consumers in a way that some would call fraudulent.

Recently, I got an email from the UK-based Computeractive about an irate customer wanting a refund on avast! Pro. It seems that the person went on the internet, searched for avast, and found a site offering special download services and videos. They ended up getting a messed-up computer and spending over $100.

And then there is the French Connection: avast2011.fr-01.net. Combining avast, the year, and a major French IT portal together into a very attractive domain name; hackers created Read more…

March 16th, 2011

5 Questions with Martin Cohen (Tech Support Specialist)

Not long after I started at AVAST, I started hearing about Martin as “the guy” capable of handling almost anything language or support related. We connected quickly, I think, because of similar backgrounds (in music and education) and responsibilities (kids and work). Whenever possible, I try to join him for vegetarian lunches a few minutes from our office, and I’m hoping we’ll soon make it into a recording studio to get some of his tasty (jazzy) Fender Rhodes keyboard riffs added to a couple of my songs-in-progress. –Jason Mashak

Martin Cohen (Tech Support Specialist)

1. How does the ability to communicate in roughly half a dozen tongues shape your ‘official’ job function at AVAST?

The fact that I can communicate in several languages means that I can easily fill the ‘holes’ wherever needed. So when someone takes a holiday, I can easily jump in and take over the work in his or her (native) language. I’m not only doing tech support, but also sales and, if really necessary, I can do some work for other departments, like editing datasheets in other languages or dealing with unique customer issues. And of course, a big part of my work consists of translating (mostly technical) documents (where my background as a former physics teacher of course helps a lot concerning the technical aspect). So actually, I’m officially in tech support, but much of the time doing other things.

2. In terms of tech support, what are some of the strangest inquiries that you’ve encountered?  Read more…

March 8th, 2011

avast! Free tops the Russian download charts

The first week of March brought interesting news from Russia.  First, on the  morning of March 2, 2011, avast! Free Antivirus surpassed the longtime-leader Adobe Acrobat Reader to become the most downloaded software on the largest Russian software downloading site Softportal.com. avast! Free Antivirus gets downloaded even more than popular applications like Skype or Firefox in Russia, and is the only security solution listed in the top 20 most-popular applications. Read more…

March 7th, 2011

150 millionth avast! user registered on Friday!

Friday, March 4, 2011, someone installed avast! Free Antivirus and pushed the “Register” button at JUST the right time:  to be the 150 millionth registered user! Read more…

March 7th, 2011

5 Questions with Julia Szymanska (Community Manager)

In recent years, the need for a Community Manager has become essential, especially when your entire business operates online and your ‘community’ is a global one. Julia was an excellent choice for this position at AVAST, as her experiences both as a traveler and living as a foreigner have given her insight into the myriad ways communications take shape. I’ve worked closely with her on various projects, and she has a natural ability to empathize with community concerns, promote community interests, and ensure that the avast! Community stays in focus (in the light of our overall company direction). –Jason Mashak

Julia Szymanska

Julia Szymanska (Community Manager)

1. I recall that one of our first conversations was about your studies of literature and languages, and so I’m curious how a background in humanities helps you in your current role as Community Manager for AVAST?

The fact that I manage to communicate in several languages helps a lot. But, frankly, I would need to learn at least another 8 languages to be able to cover typical daily communications, as the community of our fans is very multilingual. :) The first thing that came to mind after reading this question was the “KIS rule”: KEEP IT SIMPLE. :) Twitter limits you to 140 characters and Facebook to 420, so you’re forced you to follow that rule. It confirms what I already suspected attending university: make your text as simple as possible.

2. What challenges do you encounter in terms of interacting with the avast! Community via Facebook, Twitter, etc.?  Read more…

March 3rd, 2011

5 Questions with “Tech” (avast! Forum “Evangelist”)

From the time I started working at AVAST, I kept hearing about our avast! Forum “Evangelists” – Community members who have helped us greatly over the years by providing tech support to other users, product feedback (including ideas for improvements), and more. In short, they have been the true heartbeat of AVAST ever since the avast! Forum went LIVE in 2002. As of March, 2011, the top forum evangelist, with almost 55,000 (55 THOUSAND!!!) forum posts, is the Brazil-based user known as “Tech” – known to his family and friends as Lisandro Souza. I was especially interested in interviewing him, as was interested primarily in his motivation for helping AVAST over the years. –Jason Mashak

"Tech" leads the avast! Forum with around 55,000 posts (as of early 2011)

1. For avast! users who have never visited the avast! Forum, considering that it’s not only a tech-support community, how would you summarize the full range of activity that happens there?

It’s a true Community. We share knowledge, dreams, friendship, professional and leisure readings and thoughts. It’s a very open-minded place, no fanboyism, freedom. There is room for techies and non-techies. You can learn. You can share. You can help and receive help. You can interact with the developers and “interfere” in the future of it in some cases: you really participate. You can rest with some threads about technology and non-avast related. Although, some of us miss the Off Topic forum (sorry Pavel, couldn’t resist…). If you never being in a forum, come, feel the atmosphere!

2. What have been some of the most fulfilling moments for you as an avast! Forum member?

The first troubleshooting with “Vlk” [Ondrej Vlcek, CTO] and Jindrich Kubec [Virus Lab Director]: the professionalism and warm reception caught me! Read more…