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April 28th, 2014

Digital snoop screams at baby through baby monitor

As more gadgets get WiFi-connected, there could be serious implications for personal and home security.

 

Secure your privacy by using avast! SecureLine VPN

Baby monitor hijacked

A new case of a baby monitor being hijacked was reported last week in a Cincinnati, Ohio home. Fox19 news reported that the Schreck family was fast asleep when an unfamiliar voice woke up Mrs. Schreck. She grabbed her cell phone to check on the wireless IP camera used to monitor her 10-month-old daughter Emma’s room. The camera was moving, seemingly by itself. A man’s voice started screaming, ‘Wake up baby. Wake up baby.’

This incident is similar to one that occurred in August 2013 when a disturbed stranger screamed obscenities at a sleeping toddler through the baby monitor. The bugs in the Foscam camera that was used have since been discovered and updates are on the company website. Make sure you update your camera’s firmware as soon as possible.

The Internet of Things

“Smart” gadgets like IP camera video feeds are used to monitor children, property, and pets. If the camera isn’t secure, a hacker or creepy Peeping Tom can use them to spy on you and your family, watch recorded images, and even find out when the coast is clear so they can break in. Other smart gadgets like home appliances, TVs, pacemakers, cars, etc. – are vulnerable to cyber attacks. This may be a low-risk threat now, but as more gadgets get WiFi-connected, there could be serious implications for personal and home security.

Tips to secure your home cameras against digital snooping

  • Secure your home wireless router. Look for a camera that supports current wireless security protocols, like WPA2.
  • Use a unique password. Don’t be tempted to turn off the password requirement on your camera. If you’re not sure what a strong password looks like, read our blog about creating strong passwords.
  • Use a secure WiFi connection. Your camera’s mobile app may not be encrypted, so using it on an unsecured WiFi network could give troublemakers an open door to your video feed or your password. Change the settings on your mobile device so that it doesn’t automatically connect to a public WiFi hotspot. Protect your privacy by using avast! SecureLine VPN on your Android phone or iPhone. If you don’t know what a VPN is, read our blog post explaining what a VPN can do for you.

The FTC has more tips for securing your IP camera on their site.

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.

April 25th, 2014

Will avast! GrimeFighter speed up my old PC?

howto2_enQuestion of the week: I have seen your ads for GrimeFighter, but I don’t know if it will help me or not. I have an old laptop that’s really slow. Will GrimeFighter speed things up? How does it work?

Yes, GrimeFighter will speed your old laptop up, and more than that. We are quite proud of avast! GrimeFighter and see it as a complement to the services provided by avast! Antivirus, so I’m glad you asked this question. Read what one of our customers told us after using GrimeFighter on her old laptop.

user testimonialCarolC

Here’s a summary followed by a short video on how to get GrimeFighter for your PC.

Why do I need GrimeFighter?

about_cleanNew PCs come pre-loaded with what we call Grime - all kinds of clutter and trialware. Over time your PC gets bloated with more Grime; viruses, spyware, pop-ups, and toolbars, making it sluggish and difficult to use. GrimeFighter comes to the rescue as an easy-to-use, and dare I say, even fun, fully-automated optimization tool designed so that even a novice can tune up his computer.

Don’t get put off by the word “optimization.” This isn’t those scammy products advertised on late-night television – AVAST wouldn’t be a part of such things. GrimeFighter is a product that we stand behind and believe will help our users extend the life of their machines. (Windows XP users, we’re talking to you!)

Read more…

April 23rd, 2014

Facebook is spring cleaning your News Feed

Facebook spam blocks relevant News Feed posts

Spam blocks news Facebook users want to see

Last year, Facebook had the dubious honor of containing more spam than other social networks.

In order to combat this scourge, Facebook recently announced a series of  improvements to the News Feed to help ensure that spammy content does not drown out the posts that people really want to see from friends and Pages they care about.

“The goal of this spring cleaning is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important and relevant to them,” said Facebook.

The clean-up targets three areas: Like-baiting, frequently shared content, and spammy links

Like-baiting is one of the sneakiest scams on Facebook. It’s when a post explicitly asks readers to like, comment, or share the post in order to increase the number of likes and/or shares; in other words, to “Go Viral.”  As we have described in previous posts, the page usually collects the likes, then sells it to the highest bidder to re-purpose for new annoying posts and scams.

Facebook uses this cute animal survey image to illustrate what it considers to be like-baiting.  The text asks the reader what their favorite animal is, with pictures asking for likes, comments, and shares.

Like-baiting is one of the sneakiest scams on Facebook

Facebook found that there was an over-abundance of frequently shared content.

Read more…

April 22nd, 2014

How to recycle your old PCs and phones on Earth Day and everyday

At AVAST, our commodity is brain power and electronic bits and bytes, but we still do our part to preserve and protect the environment.

Recycle old computers and phones for Earth Day

A question that plagues companies like ours, as well as schools, small businesses, and countless households across the world is this:

When electronics get old or lose their usefulness, what do you do with them?

The electronic devices we depend on, like PCs, servers, and smartphones are manufactured from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, that must be extracted and processed. Donating or recycling electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution.

Did you know?

  • The original owner keeps a laptop computer for only three years and will discard their cell phone after only 24 months.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. (EPA)
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Donate or Recycle: Where to take your old devices

It’s better for everyone if you can find a place that excepts a donation. Look for foundations and charities in your area – but realize that they don’t want to inherit a bunch of junk, so make sure it’s in good working condition. In the US, the National Cristina Foundation will put you together with organizations in your community that reuse technology for people with disabilities, at-risk students, and economically disadvantaged persons.

If you want to recycle, look for a reputable electronics recycling program. In the US, retailer Best Buy has a Recycling Program certified to e-Stewards standards. They even take large appliances. Manufacturers like Dell and Apple have their own programs, so look them up in your area.

Protect your security before donating or recycling

Your computer and phone are filled with personal and financial information. Since identity theft is one of the fastest growing cybercrimes, you must take precautions.

Read more…

Categories: General Tags: , , ,
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April 21st, 2014

So you’re sticking to Windows XP? Here’s how to protect yourself.

It’s the end of Microsoft support, not the end of the world.

AVAST continues to protect Windows XP users.

Abandoned, rusting and full of holes.

For more than a year, Microsoft informed and reminded users to upgrade from Windows XP before their support expired. They warned users that they would be subject to “zero-day” threats forever more. But, even with all that, nearly 30 percent of internet-connected PCs continue to run Windows XP.

We asked our own users, and about 47 million of you stated that you are going to stay with your Windows XP operating system, despite the fact that Microsoft has pulled the plug on updates and support for the aging OS.

Alrighty, then. What now? How do you protect yourself against the coming threats?

Tips to keep yourself protected while still hanging on to Windows XP.

  • Buy a new computer as soon as you can. You can’t escape that one day that will be your only choice. So throw your left-over coins in a jar to start a new PC fund.
  • Clean up your old computer. If you want to keep the old laptop running as long as possible, then clean out the clutter and bloat that slowed it down over the years. avast! GrimeFighter is way cheaper than a new PC, and can breathe new life into your old one.
  • Upgrade the software that you have, but make sure it works with your system (remember, Windows XP is old, and software has moved on.) Make sure to apply any patches to the software you are using to avoid vulnerabilities. avast! Software Updater can help you with that.
  • Ditch Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and use a browser that offers the most advanced security and support. We suggest Google Chrome. They will continue supporting Windows XP until at least April 2015.
  • Use antivirus software and keep it updated. You don’t have to buy an expensive suite – avast! Free Antivirus works just fine, and we pledge to support Windows XP users for the next 3 years.
  • If you don’t need it, lose it.  Remove insecure software that you don’t use, like the Java browser plug-in.
  • Get offline or stay away as often as you can. If you’re disconnected from the network, the cybercrooks can’t find you. And you can be guaranteed they’ll be looking.

AVAST has got your back

AVAST’s COO, Ondrej Vlcek, explained about the dangers of staying with Windows XP in Another Data Breach Crisis Looms as Microsoft’s D-Day for XP Forces Security Scramble, but he also had some good news for users hanging on.

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.

Tell other Windows XP users

Let you friends know that AVAST is protecting Windows XP. Lots of small business owners and people with older PCs and laptops are still running the OS. We can help keep them protected.

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.

April 20th, 2014

AVAST wishes you a Happy Easter

Thank you for choosing AVAST to protect your precious memories. Have a happy, healthy, and safe Springtime.

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: ,
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April 16th, 2014

Are software “Easter eggs” safe?

eggs02Easter egg hunts are a favorite activity for kids and adults alike, and on Easter Sunday, backyards, church grounds and even the White House will host their own competitions. Cyberspace has its own Easter eggs (a hidden message in software applications), and the hunt for them is just as fun as for real eggs. I asked Filip Chytrý, a researcher in the avast! Virus Lab specializing in mobile malware, about his favorite Easter eggs.

“I hate boiled eggs,” Chytrý joked, “but revealing Easter eggs in applications is pretty fun especially if you just have a clue, but don’t have any idea where to start.”

Can Easter eggs be malicious?

We’re not too keen on hidden code that no one knows about here at AVAST, so I thought it was a good question. Filip explained that to successfully make an Easter egg, the programmer has to hide the surprise from his fellow team mates and his employer, as well as the end user. It occurred to me that if programmers can hide fun things, it’s not a huge leap to hiding malicious things. Backdoors, for instance?

“We have not seen an Easter egg that might be considered as malware. There are plenty of original apps for Android which are modified to distribute malware by adding some kind of a downloader, but it’s without the user’s interaction. Easter eggs have remained harmless; Android apps – not so much,” said Chytrý.

Are there Easter eggs in mobile software?

Android developers have hidden Easter eggs within Android OS.

Easter eggs found in older version of Android OS

“There are Easter eggs in the latest versions of Android,” said Chytrý. “To access the Easter egg in your device, open the settings screen and tap About phone at the bottom of the screen. Locate Android’s version number on the about screen and quickly tap it several times.”

It worked with Android KitKat on my Nexus 4, but may not work in the modified OS of some device distributors. Find out how to access older Android OS Easter eggs.

Read more…

April 15th, 2014

AVAST helps user recover stolen phone; brother gets shot fighting thieves

Shahrukh Humayun's smartphone was stolen

Shahrukh Humayun’s smartphone was stolen

Two brave brothers fight off mobile phone thieves in Pakistan market.

We have heard stories about how avast! Mobile Security’s anti-theft feature has helped people recover their lost or stolen phones, but nothing as dramatic as Shahrukh Humayun’s tale of bravery.

Twenty year old Shahrukh and his 17-year old brother, Shoaib, live in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the “twin city” to the capital, Islamabad. “Pindi” is a thriving urban area with good hotels, restaurants, museums, parks, and numerous markets and bazaars. It’s in one of those busy marketplaces that their story begins.

Shahrukh and Shoaib went to the market one day and were held up at gunpoint by thieves that demanded Shahruck’s HTC EVO smartphone.  Acting bravely to defend the expensive and precious device, Shoaib fought back against the bandits. They shot the teenager in the leg, stole the phone and fled the scene.

In his own words, Shahrukh described what happened:

Respected Avast! Team

I love the avast! android application as it helped me in catching the thieves who stole my mobile when I was in the market.

The story of the incident is that I visited market with my brother and I had a HTC EVO 3D X515m at that time. The thieves called me on the gun point while the area was empty. They asked me for the mobile and when my brother tried to take action they shot him on the leg.

Well, eventually I received an sms from avast that the sim have been changed. I checked my mobile as the GPS was active. I told the police about the incident on the same day and they found the thieves after 8 hours through the Google GPS connected with avast map.

Thank you avast!. Love you

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Shoaib Humayun fought theives

All of us at AVAST were touched by the courage of these two young men when faced with danger. We are happy that our anti-theft product proved to be so useful in finding and recovering the phone. More than that, we were concerned about Shoaib. How has he fared since the incident?

Shahrukh gave us an update:

My brother is braver than me. As a result of that bravery he showed his best loyalty to me by fighting with those bandits and got shot on his leg. This event have passed 8 months and he got no sign of bruises on his leg. But thank God he is fine.

Thank you avast for helping me fight these bandits against their unlawful behavior for the country.

 

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.

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April 10th, 2014

Do you hate updating your passwords whenever there’s a new hack?

Advice about changing passwords from AVAST.

Change your passwords as a precaution against the Heartbleed bug.

We reported yesterday about the serious Heartbleed  bug which allows hackers to steal encryption keys from nearly two-thirds of all websites.

“This is probably the worst bug discovered this year. We believed in the security of SSL/TLS, and now discover that it comes with a hole that allows anyone to read our personal information such as passwords, cookies or even server’s private keys,” said Jiri Sejtko, Director of the AVAST Virus Lab. “We, as end users, simply can’t do anything, but make sure we are as secure as possible.”

That means changing your passwords. Again.

If just thinking about changing all your passwords makes you want to jump out the window, then here are a few tricks to help make it a little less painful. At the end of this post, we’ll share a tip on how to make password creation, as well as remembering them all, as easy-as-pie. So go all the way to the end. ;)

Why do cybercrooks want your password?

It takes serious effort to hijack accounts, so there must be some payoff at the end for cybercrooks.  Obviously, it’s not to get your vacation photos. Money is the most common motivation. Your money.

There are many ways of turning stolen data into money, but one of them is worth highlighting. Research shows that 55% of us reuse passwords on different sites. It is likely that you use the same password for Facebook  that you use for your bank account.  This means that cybercrooks can steal your money much easier. Never use the same passwords on different sites, especially for really important services.

Password basics

1. Use a random collection of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols

2. Make it 8 characters or longer

3. Create a unique password for every account

Tricks and tips

Maximum password security requires at least seven characters, a mix of upper and lower case, a few symbols, and a sense of humor.

Create an acronym using a meaningful, easy-to-remember piece of information. Use a sentence like My wedding anniversary is 28 December, 2001. That phrase turns into this password, Mwai28/Dec.01.

Many sites require a special symbol like ` ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ – + = { } [ ] \ | : ; ” ‘ < > , . ? /. Use some of those to replace letters. Your password can be this, M<>ai28/Dec.0!.

Read more…

Categories: General, How to Tags: , ,
April 9th, 2014

Heartbleed affects much of internet. Time to change your passwords again.

Heartbleed security threat scares internetThe security community is buzzing with news of a threat called Heartbleed. The bug reportedly affects nearly two-thirds of all websites, including Yahoo Mail, OKCupid, WeTransfer, and others. The bug takes advantage of a vulnerability in OpenSSL, an open-source protocol used to encrypt vast portions of the web. It allows cybercrooks to steal encryption keys, usernames and passwords, financial data and other sensitive data they have no right to.

In a blog post to their users, Tumblr described it this way,

…that the little lock icon (HTTPS) we all trusted to keep our passwords, personal emails, and credit cards safe, was actually making all that private information accessible to anyone who knew about the exploit.

The latest version of OpenSSL fixes the problem and websites are already upgrading.

However, your popular social site, your company’s site, commerce site, hobby site, sites you download software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL, warns Codenomicon on their site about Heartbleed. GitHub compiled a list of sites that are vulnerable, but some may have already been updated. AVAST’s website is safe from the Heartbleed threat.

You can check a site’s vulnerability status at the Heartbleed test site which enables users to enter domains. If a site comes back as an “uh-oh” but doesn’t say “heartbleed” then there may be something else wrong, but it’s not Heartbleed. Update: AVAST’s COO, Ondrek Vlcek recommends this checker, https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html.

What can you do?

The best advice is to stay away from affected sites for a while. In their report on Heartbleed, Tor advises, “If you need strong anonymity or privacy on the Internet, you might want to stay away from the Internet entirely for the next few days while things settle.”

You need to change your passwords for any vulnerable sites as well. Once affected sites start making the updates, they will most likely advise their customers to change their passwords. Earlier today, Tumblr sent their users a note encouraging them to change passwords to all their online accounts immediately.

“This might be a good day to call in sick and take some time to change your passwords everywhere — especially your high-security services like email, file storage, and banking, which may have been compromised by this bug,” Tumblr said on their blog.

We have written tips about creating strong passwords in the avast! blog. Read My password was stolen. What do I do now? as a reminder.

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: , ,