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January 31st, 2014

How to use avast! Mobile Security: Privacy Advisor

howto2_enAt AVAST we work hard to improve your security and privacy. Mobile malware is increasing. If you aren’t yet convinced that this is an issue, please read the latest blog from the avast! Virus Lab, How are you doing Mr. Android?

Nowadays, besides the traditional way to get money – sending premium SMS – the collection of personal info and browsing habits are also trending. How do cybercrooks monetize this data? Managing the ads that are shown in your smartphone or tablet, suggesting apps, sending offers by email or displaying them in-apps.

If you use avast! Mobile Security, then you can run a Privacy Advisor scan to categorize all the apps in your device:

    • Collect location information: Because of their nature, some apps need to capture your location. These would be GPS navigation tools, outdoor sports tracking and weather apps, for example. Some of them do it for statistical reasons. However, the majority of them do it just to customize local (targeted) ads.
    • Collect device or mobile network information: Some apps use the device info for developer and statistical reasons. Your mobile network info is also captured.
    • Collect user behavior data inside the app: This data are mostly useful for the developers as they adjust and customize their own apps according to their customers’ use, and to separate free from paid features.
    • Show in-app banner advertisements: This is an annoyance. Impatient users could drop the use of the app due to this kind of ad.
    • Show in-app full-screen advertisements: This is a huge annoyance and if it occurs, it is an invitation to uninstall the app. This is why the developers only show them a few times while the app is running

box-avast-free-mobile-security-android-editors-choiceThe strong alternative is to uninstall the app. Nevertheless, you can minimize the problem using the opt-outs for some of the ads networks. Also if you’re using the root mode of avast! Mobile Security, you can use the convenient firewall settings to block the connection completely or, at least, reduce the use of 3G/4G bandwidth. avast! Mobile Security also gives a setting to be warned when one type of ad is present in the app.

AdMob is a leader in mobile ads. It’s developed by Google Inc. and is capable of showing banners, full-screen and clickable image ads, i.e., the standard in-app ads. They also collect device info (Android ID and build version, screen resolution, location). AdMob generally obfuscate the Android ID during the data collection, but other info is collected unencrypted and in the clear. You can opt-out for targeted ads here: www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads/preferences/?hl=en#optout (note that you’ll still receive non-targeted ads).

Google Analytics is another add-on developed by the giant search company. Generally, it just sends info to the app developer (user interaction with the app, crash reports, device info).

InMobi is another ad network that collects your device and mobile network info (including IMEI, device model, Android ID and build version, screen resolution, location). It encrypts the info the same way as AdMob does: Only Android ID is obfuscated, all other info are in the clear.

Take into account that some ads networks collect the data without any encryption and in the clear. Other malicious apps could take advantage of this and get your personal and device data.

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