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June 20th, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 and other popular phones vulnerable to “TowelRoot” Android exploit

avast! Mobile Security detects TowelRoot exploitsavast! Mobile Security protects from an Android flaw which leaves nearly all new smartphones and tablets vulnerable to attack.

Last week, a wave of articles about a newly discovered Android security flaw flooded the Internet. They sounded a warning, similar to this:

“A flaw in the Android operating system may leave many Android phones and tablets vulnerable to attack, including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Google’s own Nexus 5,” reported Jill Scharr in a Tom’s Guide article.

Our Virus Lab did not waste  time and started preparing for the inevitable attacks. AVAST researchers dug into the subject looking for malware to make  sure that avast! Mobile Security is ready to protect our users. If you are an avast! user and your tablet or smartphone is protected by avast! Mobile Security, you are protected.

“Even though TowelRoot is not malicious itself, it may be misused as an exploit kit. Generally, TowelRoot can be used as a delivery package for malicious applications,” explained  Filip Chytry, an AVAST Virus Lab expert on mobile malware. “It’s capable of misusing a mistake in Android code which allows attackers to get full control over your Android device. TowelRoot itself is more a proof-of-concept, but in the hands of bad guys, it can be misused really quickly. For this reason we added it to our virus signatures, so Avast detects it as Android:TowelExploit.”

Android has not made an official statement on the security flaw, however our researchers confirm that even the latest versions of the operating system are exposed (version 4 and all higher). It is very likely that versions 3.0 can be attacked, too. For those who just purchased an Android device or don’t have protection yet, we strongly recommend that you install avast! Mobile Security, before taking any further actions. Despite the fact that some of the mobile providers claim that their devices are immune to this particular Android exploit, it is highly risky to leave your device unprotected.

What is the TowelRoot Android vulnerability?

Earlier this month a security flaw in Linux, the operating system which Android is based upon, was discovered by a young hacker known as “Pinkie Pie.” Soon afterwards, a gifted teenager, notable because he was the first to unlock the unlockable –  an iPhone at the age of 17, prepared a tool kit for potential hackers. Its instructions are available publicly to “purchase,” allowing even less advanced programmers to write a script that will use the exploit.

The potential exists for hackers to take full control; to simply root your device. So far the AVAST Virus Lab has not observed any massive attack, however knowing about the potential risk, our Virus Lab is ready for the attack. avast! Mobile Security is capable of discovering different variations of malware code required to exploit the bug.

Who is exposed and how to protect yourself?

Basically everyone who owns an Android device without proper antivirus protection, tablet or mobile phone, with any version of Android OS, including the newest one is at risk for malware.

In order to prevent this exploit, or any other malware attack, once you purchase your device, we advise to install antivirus first, before installing any apps, importing contacts, or starting to browse online. Our avast! Free Mobile security, as well as its Premium version are available to download and install from Google Play.

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.

June 17th, 2014

AVAST kills Android ransomware with new app

avast! Ransomware Removal app eliminates Android ransomware and unlocks encrypted files, for free!

ransomware-removal-suitcase

Ransomware, the terror of Windows that locks computers, encrypts the files, then demands a hefty payment to unlock them, has made its way to Android smartphones.

“The ransomware problem is growing like hell – and it’s no longer just threatening users – the new versions actually do encrypt your files,” said Ondrej Vlcek, Chief Operating Officer at AVAST Software.

AVAST Software just released a new app called avast! Ransomware Removal that will eliminate the malware from an infected device. Get it free for your Android smartphone and tablet from the Google Play Store.

avast! Ransomware Removal will tell you if your phone has ransomware on it. If you are infected, it will eliminate the malware. Android users who are clean, can use the free app to prevent an infection from happening.

This short video shows you what actually happens when ransomware infects your Android smartphone.

The next wave of attacks

Savvy malware writers know where the next round of victims can be found. With Android at a whopping 80% worldwide market share, as well as “billions” of remaining mobile subscribers ready to upgrade to smartphones, the targets are numerous.

After detecting the massive growth of ransomware on PCs, this spring AVAST Virus Lab researchers saw the malware migrating to the Android platform. Analysts identified fake government mobile malware, and early this month a new ransomware called SimplLocker proved to be successful. This proof-of-concept worked so well encrypting photos, videos, and documents stored on smartphones and tablets, that the Virus Lab immediately ordered a tool from our mobile development team to combat it - avast! Ransomware Removal.

SimplLocker blocks access to files contained on mobile devices. Without our free ransomware-removal tool, infected users have to pay $21 to regain access to their personal files,” said Vlcek. “SimplLocker is the first ransomware that actually encrypts these files, so we developed a free tool for people to restore them.”

Find. Kill. Prevent.

Install avast! Ransomware Removal to find out if your Android devices are infected and to get rid of an infection. Anyone infected by SimplLocker, Cryptolocker, or any other type of ransomware can download the free avast! Ransomware Removal tool, and then install the app remotely on the infected device. Once installed, you can easily launch the app to scan the device, remove the virus, and then decrypt your hijacked files.

To keep your devices protected from Cryptolocker, SimplLocker, and other ransomware, make sure to also install avast! Free Mobile Security & Antivirus from the Google Play store. It can detect and remove the malware before it is deployed.

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.

 

June 10th, 2014

Keep your phone safe from hackers and thieves while on vacation

Traveling to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, or just headed out to your local beach for a daytrip? You remember to pack your sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of sunblock, but don’t forget that your mobile gadgets need protection too.

world-cup-hackers Here’s a couple more items for your packing list:

  • avast! SecureLine VPN to protect against dodgy public WiFi
  • avast! Mobile Security and Anti-Theft to protect against thieves

That free WiFi HotSpot could get you in hot water!

Spectators at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will have lots of choices of free WiFi. At least 6 of the 12 World Cup stadiums have access to free WiFi built in, and planners have created WiFi hotspots across 2,300 access points, including parks, squares, and public transit stations. Fans not watching in person will check scores on their phone or watch live streaming matches by connecting to free WiFi at hotels and bars.

“A WiFi attack on an open network can take less than 2 seconds,” tweeted @ExtremeNetworks recently. Cybercrooks can access and steal your personal data when you connect to these unprotected networks. Having your identity stolen and bank account emptied out while on vacation could ruin any trip – even one to paradise!

“Hackers target public hotspots, where it’s easy to follow every move that users of the WiFi connection make, allowing them to access emails, passwords, documents, and browsing behavior,” said Vincent Steckler, Chief Executive Officer of AVAST Software.

Use a VPN service to make sure that doesn’t happen. avast! SecureLine VPN protects your privacy by making your logins, emails, instant messages, and credit card details invisible to spying.

Read more…

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June 4th, 2014

How to protect yourself from the coming virus apocalypse

After the takedown of a major botnet, users have a “two-week window” to protect themselves against a powerful computer attack that ransoms people’s data and steals millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims. 

Zeus_Banner_blhd01
If you read our blog, you are familiar with the dangers of the Zeus Trojan and ransomware, and how people get infected. Here’s a quick review:

1. The victim opens a carefully crafted email which is designed to look like it came from their bank or a well-known company.
2. The victim clicks on and runs an email attachment.
3. Malicious software like the one making the news now, Gameover Zeus, releases a Trojan which searches the computer for passwords and financial data.
4. Once Gameover Zeus finds what it’s seeking, cybercrooks instruct CryptoLocker, ransomware software, to hijack the computer, encrypt the files, and demand payment for it to be unlocked. To get access to your computer again, you must pay a ransom within a set amount of time.
5. Once infected, the computer becomes part of the global botnet.

The good news

Led by the FBI, agents from Europol and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) brought two computer networks that used the Gameover Zeus botnet and Cryptolocker ransomware to infect up to a million computers and cost people more than $100 million under control of the good guys.

The bad news

As we explained in our blog post yesterday, GameOver Zeus May not be as Over as You Think, cybercrooks could conceivably build another botnet to replace the ones that were shut down.

Why the two-week window?

This window is based on the amount of time the FBI thinks they can ”hold the upper-ground against the cybercriminals.” Two weeks should be enough time for computer users to update their operating system software and security software and disconnect infected computers.

Steps to take now to protect your computer

Read more…

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May 27th, 2014

How to wipe the data from my lost smartphone

howto2_enQuestion of the week: My phone was lost and there is no way to recover it. Thank goodness I had the data backed up. How do I use avast! Mobile Security to wipe all my information off of it?

We’re sorry that you lost your phone. You are not alone. Over one hundred smartphones are lost or stolen every minute of every day, but unfortunately 34% of smartphone owners haven’t protected their phone like you did. Congratulations on taking the initiative to back-up your data! We found out that half of smartphone owners don’t back up their data, even though they are concerned about losing it. (This seems to be theme – same thing happens with changing passwords.)

Many smartphone owners do not have anti-theft installed

Half of smartphone owners don't backup their data

If there’s no way to recover the device, then you are wise to use avast! Mobile Security to remotely wipe your phone of all your personal data.

Thorough wipe

Avast! Mobile Security and Anti-Theft has remote features that allow you to take certain actions. Wiping the phone can be carried out by SMS command. This is useful in your case when you do not expect to get your phone back and you do not want a thief to access your personal data. Read about how you can set up remote control on your Android phone.

Thorough wipe allows avast! to permanently and irreversibly delete the content of any SD card when wiping the phone. Wiping smartphones using up to Android 2.1 is somewhat restricted as a factory reset of the phone is not possible. However, avast! will try to delete as much as possible, for example contacts, call logs, SMS/MMS, browser history and SD card content, but not emails or apps.

From Android 2.2 onwards, a full factory reset is possible so you have full wipe capabilities. However, please be aware that this will also delete avast! Anti-Theft, unless it was installed as a rooted application.

The thorough wipe will take up to ten minutes, and will physically and irrecoverably delete the actual contents of your SD card. It is your choice whether to select the maximum level of security by using the thorough wipe option.

Protect your data with avast! Anti-Theft

To do a full wipe, avast! Anti-Theft needs to be configured in the advanced settings as a device administrator, otherwise applications, emails etc. will not be deleted. Download and install avast! Mobile Security and Anti-Theft from the Google Play store.

Don’t forget to backup your data with avast! Mobile Backup. It saves your contacts, call logs, SMS history, photos, and other irreplaceable data to your AVAST Account (and, optionally, Google Drive) to ensure that your priceless data is never lost. Download avast! Mobile Backup for free from Google Play.

All SMS commands, along with a short description how everything works is explained in our manual (PDF). It’s short and easy to understand.

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.

May 21st, 2014

eBay becomes victim of security breach

Auction giant eBay requests 128 million users to change their passwords after hack.

tweet ebay

In a blog post from the company, eBay Inc. said a cyberattack “compromised a database containing encrypted passwords and other non-financial data.” There is no evidence that the compromise resulted in users’ financial or credit card information being stolen, but the company is telling all users to change their passwords.

Users need to be alert even after their passwords have been changed. After a breach like this the risk that hackers will use their personal information to commit identity fraud and launch phishing attacks increases. As always, do not click on links in emails, or give personal information over the phone. If you need to discuss your account information, please contact eBay’s customer service by phone or via their website.

“The eBay breach is yet another password issue like Heartbleed. It is really important that people take this seriously, ” said Ondrej Vlcek, Chief Operating Officer of AVAST Software. “Data from our recent survey shows that nine out of ten people intended to change their passwords after Heartbleed, but only 40% took action. This careless attitude is completely irresponsible; people have to take the initiative to protect themselves.”

A password manager like avast! EasyPass helps encrypt and protect personal information online, with random, strong passwords. Learn about creating strong passwords by reading our blog, My password was stolen. What do I do now?

Two weeks ago, eBay discovered that cyberattackers broke into their corporate network through a small number of employee log in credentials. They revealed that the database was actually compromised in late February and early March, and included eBay customers’ name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth. However, the database did not contain financial information or other confidential personal information.

Another eBay compromise yesterday

Yesterday in an unrelated attack, eBay’s UK and French advertisement network was compromised and showed fake Java and Flash updates. This malicious advertising replaced the visited page and an installer offered a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP).  As of last night, they were working to resolve the issue. avast! Antivirus detected the compromise and alerted users.

“Third party ad networks are useful to attackers because the number of connections delays taking malicious content down,” explained Honza Zika, malware analyst in the avast! Virus Lab. “Instead of a normal ad, the attacker deploys a code that redirects to the attacker’s page. It’s designed to look like an official Flash or Java page, but installs unwanted toolbars, addons, extensions or other PUPs. avast! detected this and protected our users.”

Thanks to independent researcher Malekal for his work on this compromise. Read more on his blog.

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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May 21st, 2014

Does your fitness app track more than your daily workouts?

avast! MobileSecurity checks privacy permissions of appsFor the last few years, I have used an app on my Android smartphone to log my training runs. It tracks the distance I ran, the route I took, my running pace, and calories burned. If I want to, I can link it with Facebook or other social networks and share my workouts, or I can pay to have my stats broadcast live, so for example, during a race, my family can follow my progress.

Using an app like this is motivating and helps me to organize my training better, but until recently I had never considered the privacy and security issues surrounding fitness tracking devices and apps.

“Privacy advocates warn that consumers aren’t always aware of how sensitive the data the apps collect can be or what privacy protections exist,” reported The Washington Post yesterday.

My smartphone is protected by avast! Mobile Security, so I decided to take a closer look at my apps with the Privacy Advisor feature. Privacy Advisor scans the apps in my device and tells me what kinds of information they collect. Application Management tells me what permissions individual apps require. My fitness app requires me to give these permissions:

  • Track GPS location
  • Read contact data
  • Access accounts

Not too bad; at least when I compare it to the fitness app that came with the phone.

My fitness app respects my privacy, but many health and fitness apps sell personal information like usernames, names and email addresses, and information like medical symptom searches, zip codes, geo-location, gender identifiers, and dietary and workout habits. A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study revealed that ad companies and data miners are among the third parties that buy this data.

Already some employers are rewarding their workers with cheaper insurance plans for joining fitness programs. But there is worry that the data collected could be pieced together to create profiles that would backfire. It’s fine when you’re healthy for your fitness, health and medical data to determine things like insurance rates or drug pricing, but what if your health declines?

The FTC “is concerned consumers could be penalized based on health data; for instance, a financial institution might adjust credit ratings based on the fact someone has a disease.”

“Information about consumers most intimate health conditions is going to be sold to the highest bidder,” Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told the Washington Post. “Employers might get access to it, insurers might get access to it, or mortgage lenders — which could lead to a vast array of negative discriminatory practices.”

Know what your apps want

Check what the apps that you have allowed on your smartphone require with avast! Mobile Security.  Install it free on Android devices from the Google Play store.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news and product information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Business owners – check out our avast! Business Solutions.

 

May 19th, 2014

How to set up your smartphone for remote control

howto2_enQuestion of the week: I just installed avast! Anti-Theft on my new Samsung Galaxy S5. If it gets lost or stolen, I know I can use remote control somehow. What do I do to set that up?

Congratulations on your cool new phone! It would be awful to lose that! Now that you have the free avast! Anti-Theft installed, you need to set it up so you can use the remote control features to control your phone via the avast! Portal or by SMS commands using a friend’s phone.

Communicate via your online account

First, make sure you set up an account on our online portal at my.avast.com to communicate with the anti-theft installation. Once you set it up, you get an overview of all your devices protected by avast! security products and you can pair the devices with the online account.

To pair your smartphone to the account open avast! Mobile Security, open the Settings section and tap on the avast! Account. The wizard will lead you through the registration or pairing process.

Once that’s done, you can remotely control your mobile devices on which avast! Mobile Security and Anti-Theft is installed.

Control your smartphone with avast! Anti-TheftCommunicate via a friend’s phone

Another way to communicate with your phone is by SMS commands using a friend’s phone. To do that you need to specify one or two phone numbers of friends or family members who will receive the Anti-Theft notifications from your phone.

To add a friend’s phone number, open avast! Anti-Theft and click on Friends. You can add one or two phone numbers here. Before you leave the screen, you have one more decision to make: Go to the bottom and check the box Only allow friend commands to allow SMS commands only from the specified friend’s numbers, or, if left unchecked, SMS commands will be accepted from any number. If you change your mind later, you can remove that restriction, by de-selecting the option.

SMS commands to remotely control your phone

Using the SMS commands, you can silently retrieve details of calls made and received, copies of incoming or outgoing SMS messages, you can remotely lock your phone, sound a siren or even remotely wipe your phone of all your personal data if you do not expect to recover it. You can also receive continuous GPS updates so that you can track your phone’s location.

Get avast! Mobile Security and Anti-theft for free

Install avast! Mobile Security and Anti-theft from the Google Play store.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news and product information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Business owners – check out our avast! Business Solutions.

May 15th, 2014

Author brings old friend back to life

Richard Skorupski is a writer and author living in South Dakota.

Richard Skorupski is a writer and author living in South Dakota.

avast! GrimeFighter cleaned “Grime” away and gave an author his beloved laptop back.

Writers have their rituals and their favorite ways to write. For example, author Truman Capote always wrote while stretched out on his couch or bed with cigarettes and drinks (mint tea in the morning; martinis at night) within reach. Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass famously writes in a shed by hand, using a ballpoint pen on narrow lined A4 paper (with two holes, not four). Douglas Adams typed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on his old Hermes 8 typewriter.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear from author Richard Skorupski about the decline of a trusty “old friend.” The surprise was how avast! GrimeFighter brought that friend out of retirement. Here’s the story Richard shared with us:

A story about an old friend

For a man I can compare it to a favorite tee shirt or faded work jeans. For a woman I can compare it to a favorite pair of comfortable shoes.

That’s right I love my old laptop. It has been with me and served me well through years of blogs, rants, surfing and (of course) the writing of my books. Both Flyover County and The Fred Weber Story were written entirely on that laptop. The two books together are more than a million words. Add that to the other things I have written over the years and there is no wonder why the letters are worn off the keys. It is like having a best friend at my fingertips. My fingers fell in just the right place.

Sure the case is scratched, the battery is shot and I’m on the second screen, but it was still my favorite writing tool. That is until it got too old. As time wore on the my old friend got slower and slower. I understood, this old XP machine was born nine years ago in 2005, that has to be at least one hundred thirty in computer years. It finally got to the point where I put it out to pasture. I kept it around for the files it remembered, and picture memories it held, but I didn’t ask it for hard work anymore.

Now the turn of events. I was with my wife at an Expo Vender show in Huron, South Dakota over the weekend. There was a guy there who sells repaired and refurbished used computers. I knew him because he sold me my replacement computer a few months back. I was talking to him about my old laptop and how it now took over forty five minutes to boot up. I told him I couldn’t play with my old friend anymore because it was simply too slow. He said he may be able to fix it, no guarantees, for a fifty dollar service fee.

That got me thinking. I have seen those commercials on television for speeding up older computers. I wasn’t sure about them enough to trust what they were telling me. I had another answer. I use Avast! Antivirus software on all my home computers. They have recently produced GrimeFighter. They told me that they could make my old friend run like new again. Since I had confidence in Avast! as a company, I bought their product.

I installed the software and (after a couple calls to a very helpful customer service) the thing was off and running. Grime Figher jumped in and started cleaning. The thing took two hours to clean up years of gunk. In the end the report told me I was good to go (other than a very old battery – something I already knew).

So here I am this morning, sharing quality time with my old friend. He is feeling much better, he is spry and chipper and faster than he has been in years. I’m looking forward to all the stories we will tell together in the months (and perhaps years) to come.

Thank you Avast! Now, if you could just find a rejuvenator for humans…

avast! GrimeFighter can help you bring your own “old friend” back from the dead. Read more about how GrimeFighter can speed up your old laptop. Scan your computer for free, then buy your own GrimeFighter license, and purge Grime from your PC.

It’s been a few days since Richard let the minions clean “Grime” from his old laptop and he says, “I haven’t touched the new computer since I ran Grime Fighter on this one.”

Learn more about Richard and buy his first book from Amazon.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news and product information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Business owners – check out our avast! Business Solutions.

 

May 13th, 2014

Who protects your smartphone from cybercrooks?

Android malware analyst Filip Chytrý will be speaking at the CARO Workshop

Android malware analyst Filip Chytrý will be speaking at the CARO Workshop 2014

The avast! Virus Lab professionals work together to stop malware from attacking your Android mobile phone.

 

Filip Chytrý, an analyst in the avast! Virus Lab will Declare war against Android Malware, together with his colleague, Peter Kalnai, at the 8th International CARO Workshop held in Melbourne, Florida this week. CARO (Computer Antivirus Research Organization) is a technical gathering of malware experts from around the world who share case studies of mobile attacks, do real life attack demonstrations, and present plans for the identification and investigation of coordinated mobile threats.

Along with his specialized knowledge in Android malware, Filip is a really fun guy. I asked him a few questions, so that you could meet one of the AVAST professionals directly responsible for keeping tens of millions of Android smartphone users safe from threats.

DEBORAH Thanks for taking time during your preparations for CARO to meet our users via the AVAST blog. Your job analyzing Android-targeted malware didn’t even exist when you were a little boy. What early experiences with technology influenced your career path?

SAAB-(2)

Filip has worn cool shoes all his life

FILIP Define early. :) I’ve been addicted to PCs since childhood. I had my very first PC when I was 8 years old; some old piece of junk which was at that time probably older than I, but I still have remarkable memories of that time. So from that time on, I was influenced by technology. Even in my leisure activities, I concentrated on PCs. I went on to graduate from the School of Applications Cybernetics in Hradec Králové in Czech Republic.

DEBORAH  Protecting people’s desktop computers is how AVAST started, and now we’ve added free mobile security to our product offerings. How do we teach people to keep their smartphones and tablets safe just like their computers?
FILIP
Most people still do not realize that their smartphones actually have more computing power and abilities than the computer they had in their homes five-ten years ago. The capabilities of their devices are incredible. Data in portable devices may say more about you than data from your PC. You have location data there, pictures, social media information and so on. Read more…

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