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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 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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May 12th, 2014

Browser Ransomware Attacks are Massive in Scale

avast! Virus Lab infographic shows how prolific and wide-spread Browser Ransomware attacks have been over the last three months.

AttentionLeaving page alert

During December I wrote about the tricks and tactics of Browser Ransomware. Browser Ransomware is malware that works in different types of browsers to prevent people from using their PCs. To get access back to their own PC, the victim of this malware must pay a ransom to unblock it. The key to success for this attack is its translations into many different languages, giving the cybercrooks a bigger pool of potential victims.

Today I would like to look back on Browser Ransomware attacks and share some data from our avast! CommunityIQ with you.

We detect Ransomware attacks using several different methods.  The detections I checked were created January 30, 2014. I was really surprised at the huge impact this attack has had on AVAST users.

  • In a little under 3 months, AVAST protected more than a half million unique users around the world from Ransomware attacks.
  • In the past 6 weeks, AVAST users have unknowingly visited a site with Ransomware on it over 18 million times.
  • During last 24 hours, AVAST stopped redirection from infected sites to sites hosting Ransomware for more than 18,000 unique users. Read more…
May 9th, 2014

When Software Collides! What to do with your old antivirus program.

Running multiple antivirus programs on the same computer can cause conflicts resulting in false positives, a slowdown in performance, or system instability.

Installing more than one antivirus program can cause conflicts

Question of the week: Can I have more than one antivirus program on my computer at a time?

This is a good question to ask the week that security geeks are discussing the death of antivirus all over the media. The antivirus program of the 90s may be among the dearly departed, but modern anti-malware solutions such as avast! security products incorporate firewalls, intrusion detection, heuristics, virtualization, sandboxes, and many other layers of protection, making it an extremely sophisticated piece of software.

With all that complicated software, it’s not a good idea to run two antivirus programs simultaneously. In fact, many antivirus programs will not install if another antivirus is detected on your system.

Lukas Hasik, Vice President of Customer Care and Satisfaction at AVAST, says,

Most people think that more is better. However, there are situations when it isn’t true. More ice cream doesn’t make you more satisfied. And more antivirus programs on the same computer will not make you more secure. You may want to know why?  The explanation is easy.

Antivirus itself has to access areas of your operating system that “normal” programs wouldn’t have access to because accessing these areas would make the program suspicious. This is the space for collisions with other programs; mostly other antiviruses. We always advise our users to have only one active protection at the time. It’s like adding more air deflectors to make your car faster – seems like a good idea, but it only slows you down.

Generally speaking, it’s good to have an antivirus program that scans every file or download for malware and a firewall which controls what comes into your computer so you can keep out hackers, viruses, and worms. Running multiple antivirus programs on the same computer can cause conflicts resulting in false positives, a slowdown in performance, or system instability.

Therefore it is strongly recommended to uninstall all other previously installed antivirus applications before installing avast! on your computer. Most antivirus companies produce a special uninstaller program to remove their antivirus software. You should use these removal tools because typical uninstallation from the Control Panel in Windows can leave stray files behind in some cases. These files may still remain in the system and prevent avast! Antivirus from being correctly installed.

howto2_enHow do I uninstall my old antivirus program?

We have compiled a list of vendors that provide a special removal tool to uninstall their antivirus software on the AVAST FAQ page. Follow their instructions before proceeding with the uninstallation.

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 7th, 2014

Fake government ransomware holding Android devices hostage

Ransomware, which has already made its rounds on Windows, is now increasingly targeting the Android operating system. A new piece of mobile malware claiming to be the government under the name Android: Koler-A is now targeting users.

We have full control of your phone – give us $300 and we’ll give it back

Obrázek 1-1

The ransomware is pushed automatically from fake porn sites visited by Android users via a malicious .apk file that appears in the form of an app. The innocent appearance of the app deceives users and is a powerful social engineering tactic used by malware developers to trick people into installing malicious apps. The form of delivery is not the only thing that makes the app suspicious and potentially dangerous, but the access it seeks are highly unusual and alarming. The ransomware requests full network access, permission to run at startup and permission to prevent the phone from sleeping. Once installed the granted access allows the ransomware to take control of the device. The full network access allows the malicious app to communicate over the web and download the ransom message that is shown on the captive device. The permission to run at startup and prevent the phone from sleeping fully lockdown the phone, preventing victims from escaping the ransom message.

The ransomware localizes fake government messages, depending on the users GPS location, accusing them of having viewed and downloaded inappropriate and illegal content. What does the ransomware do next? Demands ransom of course! The ransom to regain access to the device including all of its apps, which it claims are all encrypted, is set at around $300 and is to be paid through untraceable forms of payment such as MoneyPak.

avast! Mobile Security safeguards against ransomware

Both AVAST’s free and premium mobile security apps, avast! Mobile Security and avast! Mobile Premium, protect customers from falling for the devious apps containing ransomware. AVAST detects this ransomware under the name Android: Koler-A and blocks its execution.

We recommend that everyone be cautious when downloading apps, especially from unofficial app markets. We also urge users to not open any files that have been downloaded to their device without their consent. Always check what apps want to access and in addition to being cautious, we advise people download antivirus to protect their devices. This new ransomware appearing on Android is the perfect example of how malware is starting to move away from the PC environment and into our pockets and there are no signs of this slowing down.

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 business products.

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May 6th, 2014

The death of Antivirus has been greatly exaggerated

Antivirus, as customers know it, incorporates firewalls, intrusion detection, heuristics, virtualization, sandboxes, and many other layers of protection and not just antivirus. It is far from dead.” ~Vince Steckler, CEO

 

A weekend article in the Wall Street Journal in which traditional antivirus vendor, Symantec, described its new business strategy and declared that antivirus software is dead, prompted AVAST’s CEO, Vincent Steckler, to respond about the effectiveness of current antivirus:

Symantec’s statement seems to relate to the enterprise, and not the consumer and small business. Enterprises have traditionally relied on many layers of defense and antivirus is one of those layers. Antivirus though is a broad-spectrum defense and as such is often complemented by other products, such as those protecting against targeted attacks that enterprises worry about.

In the consumer and SMB space, the situation is quite different: customers typically do not have multiple layers of protection. They have one, their AV product.

These products though are not the simple AV products of past years. The true statement in the story is that consumer security is so much broader than AV. AV is used as a generic name as it is what customers know. They instead incorporate firewalls, intrusion detection, heuristics, virtualization, sandboxes, and many other layers of protection and not just antivirus. Therefore, we believe AV is not dead in the consumer space. It is far from dead there.

AVAST has had this broad offering under the umbrella name of antivirus for quite some time now. Adding to its tool set of anti-spam, anti-phishing, and a silent firewall is a new set of tools to keep consumers safe from clever attacks.

avast! Mobile Security leads the fight against the exponentially increasing malware written for Android. Just as AV software is not exclusively a malware combatant, the Mobile Security app includes password protection, back up, VPN, etc. – all features that increase your security. avast! Anti-Theft for mobile devices addresses the more prevalent problem for the time-being; lost or stolen devices. Also on offer is software not traditionally in the “antivirus” universe: A password management system, a browser cleanup tool to remove potentially unwanted programs such as browser toolbars; military-grade backup storage services, and VPN services to protect unsecured WiFi.

So yes, the statement that antivirus is dead has been greatly exaggerated.  Antivirus and the additional services are a necessity in today’s insecure environment, for consumers and enterprise.

And for those Symantec/Norton customers who feel abandoned by their security provider, we welcome you to switch to Avast for free. Antivirus is alive and well and continues to protect more than 200 million Avast customers daily from online threats.

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 business products.

May 5th, 2014

The 10 Commandments of Mobile Privacy

From governments to thieves to your wife – it seems that everyone has access to your private data.

avast! Mobile Security anti-theft helps track your lost phone

If you have a smartphone or tablet, people around you can discover your most deeply held secrets. You put all your private data and personal information there and… it’s at risk. The possibility of losing your phone or getting robbed is a major concern.

Is there anything that we can do to protect our private data? Some skeptics say no. I’m an optimist; I think there is always a way. Working for a security company makes us think that there is always a way to protect ourselves, to avoid danger, and to care about other users.

Lock your apps for privacy with avast! Mobile SecurityI’ve being collecting info for what I call the 10 Commandments for mobile privacy. Here are simple steps to help protect your privacy:

  1. 1. Use a PIN, password or pattern in your device. I’m lucky to have a phone where the numbers change their position on the screen and make the lockscreen even more secure. There are some apps that make your password “random” (obeying rules you’ve previously set).
  2. 2. Lock your most private apps. Lock your log in data but also your own messages, emails, personal notes, contacts, everything is in your pocket. offers the feature to secure even more sensitive parts of your device with the avast! Mobile Security App Locker that automatically asks for a PIN when you start the app.
  3. 3. Do not save banking or credit card credentials in your phone or, at least, not in the mobile browsers. Some banks, at least here in Brazil, have their own mobile app that never saves the passwords or PINs. Now, for Android, there are free password managers that adds a new security layer while browsing.
  4. 4. Do not be a happy clicker. People who expose themselves to scams or spam links, who download each single app they see from any kind of source put themselves at risk. OK, you’ll say this is not you. But, do you think twice on clicking in social media links or shares?
  5. 5. Do not take, send, save or share nude photos. No, this is not a moral commandment. It’s a privacy one. Read more…
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May 1st, 2014

Microsoft issues patch for Internet Explorer (and Windows XP too!)

Microsoft issues patch for Internet Explorer bugWe informed you a few days ago about a new vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which allows attackers to execute code remotely, ultimately giving them full control over your PC. The vulnerability targets Internet Explorer versions 6 through 11. AVAST took immediate action and issued a new definition update which addresses this specific vulnerability and protects our users running Internet Explorer.

Today Microsoft announced that they would release a security update to address the issue affecting Internet Explorer.  Most customers have automatic updates enabled and will not need to take any action because protections will be downloaded and installed automatically. Microsoft advised those manually updating, to apply this update as quickly as possible, “now is the time,” wrote spokesperson Dustin Childs in the bulletin.

To enable Automatic Update, open the Control Panel, go to the Windows Update and click the “Check for Updates” button. Find detailed instructions here.

AVAST continues to support Windows XP users.In a surprise move, Microsoft also decided to issue a security update for Windows XP users. If you read this blog, you know that support was discontinued on April 8, and you are also aware that AVAST will continue to support Windows XP for home and business users.

This doesn’t mean that Windows XP support will start up again. In fact, Microsoft encourages “customers to migrate to a modern operating system.”  On a company blog today, an executive wrote about Windows XP, “… the reality is that the threats we face today from a security standpoint have really outpaced the ability to protect those customers using an operating system that dates back over a decade.”

There you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth. We suggest you make the switch to Google Chrome.

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 business products.

April 30th, 2014

You dropped your phone in the swimming pool. Now what?

avast tips help save your wet phone

At least it wasn’t dropped in the toilet!

How to save a wet smartphone

It happened with me, I jumped in the swimming pool with my phone in the pocket. Unfortunately, it was not the first time my phone was drenched. Some years ago, the villain was the rain. I was using a smartphone app to monitor my running pace and it started to rain. Not a light refreshing rain – no, a deluge, a Heavy rain. My phone was protected, but that was just too much rain.

At that time, I didn’t know what to do and made the wrong decisions. Some modern phones are waterproof, but others aren’t, and an accident involving water can be fatal. I’d like to share these hints with you on what to do if your phone decides to take a bath.

  • The first thing you should do NOW is a backup! You’ve heard this before, but have you done anything about it? It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Your photos, videos and musics, your apps and game data – everything could literally sink in water. We offer a simple, yet easy solution: avast! Mobile Backup protects your data against such accidents. Try now the free basic version from Google Play Store.
  • TURN YOUR PHONE OFF If your phone was dropped into water, the first thing to do is TURN IT OFF. And not only press the on/off button, but also remove the battery and cards completely. It’s a race against time. Each second is vital to avoid an electric shock and motherboard crash.
  • Let all the water flow freely. The best position for the phone is horizontal over a table on a dry piece of cloth. Do not rub, do not use cotton, do nothing… Just let the water drain out.
  • Dry the device carefully. After that, take a dry cloth or some absorbent paper to dry the device completely. Hold it with the screen facing up to drain all the water that could stay inside. Try not to shake it.
  • Be patient. Have a lot of patience. That’s the keyword here. Keep the phone open for a long time, at least 24 hours. Some technicians recommend to put it into a pot and fill with raw rice (or gel silica, if you have it with you) to absorb dampness.
  • After 24 hours, remove all the rice (or the small pieces of gel silica) and have patience again. Leave it open and exposed to air. Do not use hair dryers. Do not put the phone directly in the sun, because you can do more harm than good (harm to the screen, battery, or even the plastic parts.)
  • Only after other 12-24 hours you could try to put battery again and turn it on.
  • Of course, if you do not have luck, you’ll have to take it to technical assistance. But we wish you luck and that your phone will work again!

Besides getting wet, your phone can be lost or you could get infected with the ever-increasing malware being written for Android. Protect your phone for free with avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus. Get it on Google Play. Don’t be one of these careless people who neglect to protect their phones!

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 Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Business owners – check out our business products.