Protecting over 200 million PCs, Macs, & Mobiles – more than any other antivirus

Archive

Archive for March, 2014
March 20th, 2014

The first eco-friendly email virus?

A few minutes ago, I noticed a new infected email landing in my inbox. The body of the email said:

Please find Attached Invoice payment format of Marina private ltd.

Thanks
Marina.A.Beg

Marina Private Limited
Plot No. 544-J, Pace City - II
Sector - 37, Gurgaon - 122 004
Haryana - Bharat

That’s pretty normal / boring stuff — and so was the attached ZIP file, which contained a run-of-the-mill sample of a well-known virus family.

However, what grabbed my attention was the footer of the email, which said:

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
March 20th, 2014

How to remove nuisance browser toolbars?

cleanup infographicQuestion of the week: “How do I get this stupid Sweetpacks off my computer?! It’s driving me crazy!”

This question didn’t come from an AVAST email, a support ticket, or even our Facebook page. It came directly from my mother as we were talking on the phone one day. Believe me, when you work for a security software company, you better have an answer for your mother! Thankfully, I do.

It’s avast! Browser Cleanup.

Most toolbars and smiley things are unnecessary and may even cause slowdowns or unexpected crashes. Technically, toolbars are not a threat so most antivirus products won’t flag them as potentially malicious, but since they are annoying and unwanted, you can use avast! Browser Cleanup to activate/deactivate installed toolbars.

Open the avast! Antivirus dashboard, and click on the tools icon (it looks like a wrench and screwdriver). Open Browser Cleanup and click start. It will scan for toolbars with a bad reputation and give you the option to remove them.

avast! Browser Cleanup  removes unwanted toolbars from Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox ,and Internet Explorer. It is integrated in all avast! antivirus security products, and is also available as a stand-alone product on various download portals for use by friends without avast! installed.

Heavy duty browser cleaning

Since the avast! Browser Cleanup tool was launched in February 2013, it has removed 125 million unwanted toolbars from AVAST users’ computers. That’s more than 10 million toolbars zapped each month.

Toolbars typically inhabit the horizontal space below your browser and include buttons, icons, and menus that give you an easy way to select functions on the desktop, in applications or the browser. In some cases, they can be quite useful, but avast! users have rated only 4.2% of toolbars as “good” or “useful.”

avast! Browser Cleanup has identified 10 million different toolbars in the database, and avast! users have rated most of those as “bad.” The Sweetpacks toolbar, and millions like it, received that rating because they change your home page and search engine into their own. Toolbars often install a hidden background program for “updates,” but it really prevents you from resetting your homepage and search engine back to the ones of your choice. Worse yet, this service makes sure that the toolbar gets reinstalled if you try to remove it.

Dirty tricks

Our infographic shows you which toolbars avast! users have rated the top “bad” ones and the  companies that supply them. You may notice that some vendors show up more than once with a different product. Renaming products is a shady practice used to trick people.

“Roughly 7 million out of the 10.2 million toolbars in our database are polymorphic – which means they have a varying and almost unreadable name,” said Thomas Salomon, head of AVAST Software ‘s German Software Development team. “Companies use this naming strategy to confuse people, and make it difficult to remove the annoying toolbars.”

You can see some of the variants in a previous blog post.

Another dirty trick vendors use is to name a toolbar after a well-known and respected product – kind of a smoke-and-mirrors approach.

“For a couple of months now, the vendors of annoying toolbars have been using another dirty trick: They name their own bad add-ons with the good name of well-rated and useful add-ons and thus use this good reputation to ‘hide’ their own crap,” explains Salomon.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

March 19th, 2014

Check who won: Top 20 #avastSelfies!

We celebrated the 106th annual International Women’s Day with the #avastSelfie photo contest. The photo competition is over, and now it’s time to publish the winners. We have decided to award all the entries from the gallery below with the free licenses for avast! Internet Security and avast! teddy bears. Congratulations to the winners, please check your email, we will contact you soon!

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

Categories: General Tags: , , ,
Comments off
March 18th, 2014

Cyber-hijack unlikely cause of missing Malaysian jetliner

missing_malaysia_airlines_flight-465126An unknown hacker taking control of a plane using an Android phone’s screen sounds like a frightening, but fictional, scenario from the next international spy movie. But, it’s one of many theories being bandied about to explain what happened to missing Malaysian Airways Flight MH370.

This theory, advanced by a British anti-terror expert on Sunday, says that hackers can get into the main computer network of the plane through the inflight, onboard entertainment system. Ondrej Vlcek, Chief Operating Officer at AVAST, believes this theory is highly unlikely.

“The theory is extremely wild and unlikely,” said Vlcek. “The entertainment systems on most airline carriers are relatively old and independent from the main computer systems of the aircraft such as position, temperature, etc. There is no feedback communication from the entertainment system to the main computer. It is basically only one-way information for passengers.”

Long before the mystery of Flight MH370, we shared a different rogue-hacker-with-Android-scenario. It was based on a presentation given at The Hack In The Box security conference in April 2013 called ‘Aircraft Hacking: Practical Aero Series’ by Hugo Teso.  Using PC simulation software, Teso was able to manipulate the steering of a Boeing jet in ‘autopilot’ mode, and said he could make oxygen masks drop down, and even cause the plane to crash by setting it on a collision course with another plane, stated a Forbes’ article about the presentation.

After reviewing the results of his tests, aviation safety groups disputed the findings saying, “The described technique cannot engage or control the aircraft’s autopilot system using the FMS or prevent a pilot from overriding the autopilot. Therefore, a hacker cannot obtain “full control of an aircraft” as the technology consultant has claimed.”

For an up-to-date list of all the theories – from the realistic to the really wild – about what has happened to the plane, please see The Telegraph, Malaysian Airlines MH370: live.

Photo source: Express

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

March 18th, 2014

Fake Korean bank applications for Android – Pt 3

Recently, we discovered an account on GitHub, a service for software development projects, that has interesting contents. The account contains several projects; one of the latest ones is called Banks, and it has interesting source codes.  The account contains information like user name, photo, and email address, but we cannot tell who the guy in the picture is. He might not be related to the contents at all, it could be a fake picture, fake name, or simply his account may have been hacked, his identity stolen, and the Banks repository created by someone else without his consent. In this blog post, we will explore the source codes in detail.
korea-03

When we downloaded the repository, we found several directories – GoogleService and fake applications imitating mobile applications of five major Korean banks – NH Bank, Kookmin Bank, Hana Bank, ShinHan Bank and Woori Bank.

korea-02

 

We previously published two blog posts with analyses of the above mentioned fake applications.

When we look at GitHub statistics, and Punchcard tab, it tells us what time the creators were most active. From the chart below you can see, that Saturday mornings and evenings and Sunday evenings were the most active times of comments of new versions. It seems that authors of this application do the development as a weekend job. At the time of writing this blogpost, the last update of fake bank applications was in the beginning of January 2014.

korea-20

This is not the first attack against users of Korean banks. About a year ago, we published this analysis.

Conclusion

Github, the web-based hosting service for software development projects, offers a lot of interesting contents, which depending on its settings can be later found and accessed by virtually anyone, including Google robots.  We managed to find the above mentioned repository by simply Googling the strings which occurred in a malicious Android application.

Acknowledgement:

The author would like to thank to Peter Kalnai and David Fiser for help and consultations related to this analysis.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

March 17th, 2014

Another Data Breach Crisis Looms as Microsoft’s D-Day for XP Forces Security Scramble

win-xp-infographicOpinion by Ondrej Vlcek, Chief Operations Officer at AVAST Software

The termination of security updates by Microsoft to Windows XP will create severe security issues. The already rather unsafe operating system will face even more risks with the missing security updates, but the question is: Should Windows XP users be the only ones worried?

Microsoft recently announced that technical support will no longer be available for Windows XP as of April 8, 2014, ending automatic updates for the operating system. Microsoft will also eventually stop providing anti-malware signature updates to XP users, in 2015. Abandoning Windows XP is a big mistake, especially since Microsoft has not been very successful in transitioning XP users to newer systems. The AVAST database shows that 23.6% of its more than 200 million users is still running Windows XP.

XP users more susceptible to attacks than Windows 7 users

The abandonment by Microsoft will not only affect Windows XP users, but will create a big security problem for the whole ecosystem. Tens of millions of PCs running XP connected to the Internet, unpatched and without security updates, are just waiting to be exploited. The vulnerable OS will be an easy target for hackers and be seen as a gateway to infect other non-XP operating systems. Our telemetry data shows that XP users are 6 times more likely to get attacked than Windows 7 users and once Microsoft stops issuing patches, this can worsen.

The next Target-like attack is brewing

Home users are not the only ones who will be affected by the Windows XP support cutoff, according to reports*, 95% of ATMs in the world still run on Windows XP. These ATMs along with businesses still using Windows XP on their PCs need to be updated, or at the very least seek alternative protection. Medical offices that store confidential patient information and stores that keep customer details, such as credit card numbers, on their computers running Windows XP could easily be attacked. The Target data breach last year was conducted through a trojan that attacked the shops’ point of sales system. If businesses don’t keep their systems safe, we will, unfortunately, see more of data breaches like this. The news of the XP support cutoff was published a year ago, which means that IT professionals should be well aware of the change and the consequences it will have. For those who haven’t taken action yet, the time is now.

AVAST is devoted to protecting the PC ecosystem by not only supporting Windows XP for at least the next three years, but also by creating protection modules and detections specifically designed to cover Windows XP vulnerabilities and other security problems. We have already taken additional steps in our latest product release, avast! 2014, by making the product lighter, both in terms of speed and resource consumption, tailoring it for older machines still running Windows XP. In addition to the security value, avast! 2014 is offered for free, which is especially important for XP users. Upgrading to a newer version of Windows comes with costs, costs that not everyone can afford and is probably a big reason why many users haven’t upgraded yet.

Another reason to ditch Internet Explorer

In addition to Windows XP itself being a security risk, Internet Explorer on Windows XP poses an even larger threat. The latest version of the browser available on Windows XP is version 8, making it outdated and lacking a number of security improvements available in its later versions. Of our existing Windows XP user database, 21.5% run Internet Explorer, leaving themselves open to easy attacks. Google Chrome is a good alternative and is fully compatible with Windows XP, updating itself automatically.

Windows XP users will not be the only ones affected by the end of updates by Microsoft and should not be the only ones worrying about the end date. Users still running Windows XP need to act both proactively and responsibly to ensure safety for not only their own data and PC, but for that of others as well.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

March 14th, 2014

Creative recommendations win 10 AVAST users $1000 each

post01 (1)The AVAST recommendation contest brought 145,000 new members to the AVAST Community! More than 20,000 people entered the contest and approximately 10% of those entries were think-out-of-the-box creative submissions! Users from USA, Brazil, Russia, India, France, Spain, Poland, India, Germany and many other countries showed us  their creativity; ideas to spread the word about avast! Free Antivirus.

We received videos, links to blogs, websites, poems, creative images, and descriptions of creative recommendations tactics. It took us time to verify all the entries because of the diverse languages, but also due to lots of brainstorming and discussions. The decision wasn’t easy, but we looked at various factors and made a huge effort to judge objectively. Our criteria were simple: We focused on creative or innovative concepts and the quality of its execution. It wasn’t an easy choice, but we came to a consensus, and it’s time to announce winners now.

Thanks to all the participants. We appreciate and value your time and effort in sending us your ideas!

Congratulations to the creative winners!

Here are the 10 most creative entries we choose to award with $1000 each.

John P. created an old school video game where heroes shoot down nasty viruses. avast! Free Antivirus plays this game over 200 times a day, with our streaming updates. :-)

video game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arun P. made this video which tells the story of an Internet Analyst named Alex who got a virus using a “good” antivirus product. Then he found the “world’s best antivirus, avast! Free Antivirus” and all was well with his data. We ♥ a happy ending!

Dimitri B’s creative diorama provoked discussion about how we could create outdoor sculptures,or temporary displays illustrating unprotected devices and those protected by avast! security products. Here’s his sketch idea:

diorama idea

Alexander G. proposed that AVAST partner with PlayStation during the holidays to give away valuable codes and vouchers for security products. Read more…

Comments off
March 13th, 2014

AVAST is top choice for mobile and PC security worldwide

Respected testing lab AV-Comparatives ranks AVAST as the most popular provider of both mobile security and antivirus protection in North America, South America, and Europe, and gaining in Asia.

AVcomp mobile security

“This survey highlights that AVAST is the most popular name in security in the world,” said Vincent Steckler, CEO of AVAST Software. “We proudly protect more than 210 million devices from hackers, thieves, spies and even governments.”

The rankings came from the fourth annual global survey released at the end of February. In the survey, AV-Comparatives states that internet usage among home and business users is growing, but how people access the internet is changing. Smartphone and tablet sales have increased, while laptop and desktop sales are on the decline. This means that the focus of cybercrooks is changing too.

Android owners are vulnerable without security protection

Mobile device owners are steadily realizing that the threat to their security is increasing. The survey confirms that the amount of mobile devices protected by security software is significantly lower than that of desktop devices, especially in North America.

“User awareness of mobile malware is dangerously low; yet in 2013, our virus lab found more than 1,850 new pieces of mobile malware a day,” commented Mr. Steckler. Read more…

March 13th, 2014

#avastSelfie photo contest

We celebrated the 106th annual International Women’s Day last Saturday and it became an occasion to organize a fun #avastSelfie photo contest.

You have submitted cute, funny and great #avastSelfies, so those who haven’t submitted yet – don’t miss the fun. Contest ends on Sunday, March 14, 2014, at 16:00 p.m. CET.  Get inspired by others and check the simple “How to participate”  instructions below the photo gallery.

How to do it?

Snap an “avastSelfie” of yourself (or Gentlemen – take a Selfie with your female friend, sister, daughter, wife, or girlfriend) together with an avast! Antivirus protected device, tag it #avastSelfie, upload it on our Facebook contest app, on Twitter or Instagram! Smile for the camera and show us which device is protected by avast!

• Your laptop

• Your smartphone

• Your tablet

• Your desktop

How to enter via Facebook?

1. Fill in your contact details in the app

2. Submit your best “avastSelfie”

3. Tell your friends about avast! and invite your friends to vote for your image!

How to enter via Twitter and Instagram?

Tag your photo #avastSelfie and post it on Twitter or Instagram. It will be automatically upload to the gallery here.

The #avastSelfie photo contest begins on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 14, 2014, at 16:00 p.m. CET. Eight (8) free licenses for avast! Internet Security will be given to those Selfies with the most votes, and eight (8) avast! teddy bears will be given to our favorites. Have fun, and happy International Women’s Day!

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

 

 

 

Categories: Social Media Tags: , , ,
March 12th, 2014

AVAST will continue to support Windows XP for home and business users

800px-Microsoft_Windows_XP_logo_and_wordmark.svgIn “internet years” Microsoft’s Windows XP has been around for eons. It was released in August 2001, and in less than one month, on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will cease to provide support and security updates. The security updates patch vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malware and help to keep users and their data safe. Because of the continued use of XP in homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and ATMs around the world, this has the potential to create massive security issues.

AVAST will continue to support Windows XP users by creating protection modules and detections to cover vulnerabilities and other security problems for at least the next three years. Our latest version, avast! Free Antivirus 2014, works well with older machines running Windows XP because of its light footprint, speed, and negligible resource consumption, making it a perfect choice even for older machines running Windows XP. AVAST protects more XP users than anyone else. You can get it free now! Download avast! Free Antivirus.

What does this mean for businesses around the world?

The end of Microsoft support means you will no longer get security updates or new support information updates for Windows – for free.  Very large customers will have an option to subscribe to a program called “Custom Support,” an after-retirement support contract, but this is not available for SMBs or individual home users.

In an informal survey of AVAST partners, we learned that many businesses still use Windows XP and have delayed upgrading because of budget limitations as well as software and hardware compatibility issues.

Frank Mayer, an AVAST partner in Greece said that most of his customers are still using Windows XP, but because of the ongoing financial crisis in the country, “I see no change in the near future. In this crisis, no one easily spends money on new PC’s and /or Operating systems.”

“In Romania, most computers in public institutions still use Windows XP, and about 75% of them cannot support an upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 due to hardware limitations,” said Claudiu Chirita of Easy Media SRL. “The same situation is present in the SOHO segment where software upgrades will involve hardware upgrades or replacement.

How many still use Windows XP? What’s the risk? Read more…