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

July 8th, 2014

Tens of thousands of Americans sell themselves online every day

The Internet has become a virtual flea market, with online consumer-to-consumer sites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist selling millions of products every day. Used smartphones are a popular sales item on eBay – more than 80,000 people list their phones for sale each day. It seems like a smart way to make some extra money, but AVAST has found out that many fail to protect their identity in the process. 

AVAST recovers an abundance of personal data from used smartphones 

Most sellers delete all of their personal data prior to selling their used devices… or so they think. We purchased 20 used Android phones off eBay and used simple and easily available recovery software to restore deleted files. The amount of data we were able to retrieve was astonishing and proves that simply deleting is not enough.

Our analysts found the following:

  • More than 40,000 stored photosUsed Smartphones for Sale
  • More than 1,500 family photos of children
  • More than 750 photos of women in various stages of undress
  • More than 250 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner’s manhood
  • More than 1,000 Google searches
  • More than 750 emails and text messages
  • More than 250 contact names and email addresses
  • Four previous owners’ identities
  • One completed loan application

One phone even had a competitor’s security software installed, but unfortunately it did not help the former owner as it revealed the most personal information out of all the phones we analyzed. 

No one cares about my old photos, messages and Google searches, right?

Wrong! As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Now add private Facebook messages that include geo-location, Google searches for open job positions in a specific field, media files, and phone contacts. Put all of these pieces together to complete the puzzle and you have a clear picture of who the former smartphone owner was. Stalkers, enemies, and thieves can abuse personal data to stalk, blackmail and steal people’s identities. They can use this information to watch people’s every move, exploit their strange fetishes, open credit cards in their name, or even continue what they started by further selling their personal information online. 

How to permanently delete and overwrite data from your Android phone 

Deleting files from your Android phone before selling it or giving it away is not enough. You need to overwrite your files, making them irretrievable. To do so, install avast! Anti-Theft from the Google Play Store for free. Once you have the app installed, turn on the “thorough wipe” feature within the app. You will then need to create a my.avast account to connect to the phone (this allows users to remotely wipe their phones in theft cases as well). The final step is to wipe the phone clean, which will delete and overwrite all of your personal data. 

AVAST Used Smartphone Infographic

Read about our investigation:

Android Forensics, Part 1: How we recovered (supposedly) erased data

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.

July 7th, 2014

#AVASTstories shared by the Community

The AVAST community has proven its amazing loyalty and support over and over.  Every day we receive messages from around the world. Your comments - positive and negative -  help us improve our products and services.  Your messages of appreciation for delivering a free antivirus solution prove that we are helping millions of people stay secure, and motivate us   even further. For example, last year we have received a real handwritten letter from 9-year old Polish boy living in Ireland, and just this week, we received a “CV” from young Lucy, who wishes to work for AVAST Software.

Our community also contributes to the success of AVAST. Evangelists help us translate software, and plenty of avast! users volunteer to support others on the avast! forum. Kudos to our Superstars including BobLisandro, and Paulius!

We appreciate your #AVASTstories and are pleased to share some of them here!

 I just changed from Windows Essentials when I rebuilt my system. I love freeware and Avast has protected me from ad-ware and other stuff that escaped my eagle eye. Five stars for Avast free! ~ Sharon L. (Facebook comment) 

Avast all the way, have been using avast for years, and major improvements and step ups over the years just makes avast number 1. I’ve suggested avast to many people, and installed avast on several systems. ~ Morgan N. (Facebook comment)

 

I am using avast for the PC (from 4 years) & smartphone (from 2 years). It’s great and free. I liked it so much, I am gonna purchase the premium version. Thank you avast for the quality products and services.  ~Prashanth K (Google+ comment)

 

 

Keep writing us on here on our blog, our Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, YouTube or LinkedIn.

If you don’t use antivirus protection yet on your PC, Mac or Android device, it is high time to install avast! Antivirus for free.

For Android OS, get avast! Mobile Security & Anti-theft.

For Windows, get avast! Free Antivirus.

For Mac, get avast! Free Antivirus for Mac.

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.

July 2nd, 2014

How to prevent unnecessary costs of AVAST SMS notifications when replacing your SIM card

avast! Anti-Theft is a separate program included in the avast! Free Mobile Security appYou can install it at the same time as avast! Mobile Security, or later, during a separate installation. Its unique capabilities help you recover your phone by controlling it remotely with SMS commands or via the Internet by logging in to your AVAST account. The app can also notify you that your SIM card was removed, in case the device was stolen. All that will help you to control and locate your lost or stolen smartphone. Since its release, we have received many messages from all around the world, proving that avast! Anti-Theft has helped many users find their missing devices. A dramatic story with happy end came to us from the Humayuns brothers. They were attacked at a Pakistani market. Their smartphone was stolen during the attack. Luckily they were able to catch the thief using avast! Anti-Theft. Stories from the open road have also come our way from motorbike AVAST fan DuckyBoy and truck driver Steven B., who used AVAST to track their missing smartphones lost on the roads of USAWe even received a detective-like story from sisters Katharina and Nicole. Nicole’s phone was stolen during the trip to Vietnam, AVAST notified her sister Katharina that her SIM card had been changed and provided her with the phone’s new number. Using this information the girls successfully tracked down the stolen device (with a little help from Vietnamese authorities). Last but not least avast! Anti-theft managed to locate a phone that was lost for a year and a half, it traveled a great distance within Africa before it was found!

DiedreD-user-testimonial

 

However, we have also spotted questions from users who were surprised by the “extra charges for the SMS notifications”. Some thought the charges came from AVAST. Let’s clarify this functionality and explain, why mobile operators can charge you for SMS notifications sent from the avast! Anti-theft app.

Why is it happening and how to prevent unexpected costs?

Read more…

July 1st, 2014

Avoid regrettable mistakes; proactively protect yourself

Even the most careful planning sometimes cannot mitigate human error. A week ago, a photograph of the World Cup Security Center showing the WiFi password on a whiteboard in the background was published on the internet and immediately retweeted numerous times.

Last February, during the Super Bowl XLVIII pre-game show, the Super Bowl security headquarters was shown on a television broadcast along with the stadium’s internal WiFi login credentials.

super-bowl-security-fail-620x463

These so-called “epic fails” are highly publicized examples of regrettable mistakes that every human on the planet is familiar with – because we all make them. Maybe not at that scale; but I dare say, that no one at FIFA or the NFL intentionally set out to expose themselves or their organization to danger.

It could happen to you

So let’s stop giggling at these public slip ups and talk about our collective failure at securing our own passwords and other data. Read more…

July 1st, 2014

TextSecure reclassified as a false positive

On occasion, even the most well thought-out systems can break down. In the antivirus business, we try hard to minimize something termed false positive. A false positive is merely a mistake or a false alarm. It happens when your antivirus software erroneously identifies a file or a download as being malicious.

The AVAST Virus Lab receives more than 50,000 samples of new potential viruses every single day. There are so many that we cannot look at each individually, so we use techniques with super-techie names like Malware Similarity Search and Evo-Gen.  (These techniques are explained in a previous blog post, New Toy in the Avast Research Lab.) When a file is confirmed as malicious, we add it to our virus database. With this amount of new samples, every now and then a false positive occurs. There is no way to avoid it completely, but we try to limit it and its impact.

Over the weekend, avast! Mobile Security erroneously detected the TextSecure app as a Trojan. TextSecure is an app developed by Open Whisper Systems that protects your privacy by encrypting your text and chat messages, which means that they can only be read by your intended recipients. The AVAST Virus Lab discovered the error, fixed it and sent out an update.

Unfortunately, wires got crossed between our Virus Lab analyst and our social media community manager, and the wrong message was sent to people on Twitter and Facebook who inquired about the detection. You see, at the same time as the TextSecure detection was being reported, another unrelated detection was made, and it was indeed a malicious file. It was a simple case of mistaken identity. Later in the day, we discovered the mistake and followed up by communicating it across AVAST social channels.

AVAST confirms that TextSecure Private Messenger is a genuine and safe application for Android, and contains no malicious scripts. We apologize for the inconvenience caused to TextSecure users and Open Whisper Systems.

Please be assured that AVAST does not intentionally recognize valid software as suspicious. The last thing we want to do is disrupt businesses or our customers. However, to provide maximum protection against genuine virus threats, false positive alerts sometimes arise.

howto2_enHow to report a suspected false positive

If you suspect that AVAST has incorrectly identified a file as suspicious, please submit a report to http://www.avast.com/contact-form.php?subject=VIRUS-FILE. This form will generate an email to our Virus Lab research team, and they will investigate it.

Before you do that, you may want to upload a file or a URL to online virus scanning service VirusTotal. This free online service scans the file against multiple antivirus engines and website scanners at the same time.

TextSecure protects your privacy

The fine developers of the TextSecure app deserve a happy ending, so we want to throw our support behind this innovative app. We developed avast! Mobile Security to protect Android users from malware and theft and have included numerous features to protect the privacy of our users. The TextSecure app takes that further by providing end-to-end encryption when you are communicating with other TextSecure users. It also keeps your messages away from prying eyes if your phone is lost or stolen.

Install TextSecure Private Messenger for free from Google Play. Don’t forget to leave a review and a 5-star rating!

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 30th, 2014

Community stories: 10-year old Lucy sent her CV to AVAST!

AVAST is the #1 Best Employer in our home country of Czech Republic. We have a multinational team and offices in Silicon Valley, Austin, Munich, and Hong Kong. Professionals from developers to support specialists to marketers want to join our team.

To make sure they secure a spot with our innovative company, potential employees start early. Today we spotted a Tweet complete with a CV from a future avast! Virus Lab researcher:

Lucy, we are waiting for you to graduate and join our team!

We are waiting for you, too! If you are creative like Lucy and smart like her virus-fighting Dad, looking for the adventure of a lifetime in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and have a killer skillset, then check out the AVAST Careers page.

Here’s what it’s like to work at AVAST.


 

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 26th, 2014

12 angry minions

avast! GrimeFighter is one of the most popular new products among AVAST users.

However, many of you still don’t know the benefits of it or what avast! GrimeFighter does. Therefore we have prepared a series of articles with a “movie theme” to show you the functionality of our Grime-fighting minions! The first one, Learn everything you always wanted to know about avast! GrimeFighter, but were afraid to ask!, gave you an overview of product functionality. Now let’s dig a bit deeper into the subject.

12 Angry minions.

The Grime Fighter crew work together towards one goal: Cleaning and optimizing your PCs performance. They have no mercy for temporary and unwanted files and apps, including ‘bloatware’ and ‘crapware’. This is a very complicated task, therefore our 12 Angry minions analyze each element in depth before deleting anything that is actually important to you. This influences the time of the cleaning process (it takes up to 4 hours depending on the initial state of your PC), but also ensures results: A more efficient and faster machine. Although our minions make it look easy and entertaining, cleaning Grime so thoroughly is a complex task!
avast! GrimeFighter optimizes your PC better than other products.

For the same reason each minion has it’s specialization and focus on different tasks:

OFFICER PETE is head of the GrimeFighter team.

KOBAYASHI sneaks up on malware to eliminate it from your PC.

NIKITA specializes in cleaning and maintaining your web browser.

DALE JUMPSHOT JR. focuses on removing crapware and bloatware to speed up Windows load time.

BEEF strengthens the security of your applications.

TORQUE tuns up and optimizes Windows services and settings.

SIR JEFFREY investigates and analyzes your PC hardware components.

MARIO analyzes your network connection for security and speed.

DR. LIZA analyzes and classifies all of the stuff on your hard drive.

ZILCH takes out the trash on your PC to free up your drive space.

MAXIMUS analyzes and researches the newest hacking trends the instant they emerge, and  last but not least HOLMES focuses on your privacy settings.

The avast! Minions perform deep analysis, by booting your PC into Linux to identify Grime and clean every corner of your PC. Some forms of Grime are hard to remove when Windows is running, but can’t hide when we sedate your computer. Unwanted files and apps go by many names, including ‘bloatware’, ‘crapware’, and sometimes even half-jokingly using the name ‘virus.’ We define all of these as ‘Grime.’ The image below visualize Minions in action. 

Minions in actions

 

To summarize: Computer users can download avast! GrimeFighter’s scan tool to have their PC examined for free. It finds anything that slows the PC. If users then want to clean their PCs, they may buy their own GrimeFighter license, to purge Grime from the PC. GrimeFighter’s minions do all the maintenance work… while you surf the web or sip a cup a tea. For more information, please visit our website.

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 25th, 2014

FNATIC talks to Avast about DDoS attacks targeting E-Sports

At the beginning of 2014, gaming platforms such as League of Legends and other video-game servers were brought down by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks cost professional gamers thousands in advertising revenue. FNATIC Senior Features writer, Davor ‘Dendra’ Miljkovic, spoke to Jiri Sejtko, the Director of the AVAST Virus Lab, about how to handle DDoS attacks. Here is a reprint of the original article that appeared on the FNATIC website.

 avast! protects over 219 million active devices on all inhabited planets

avast! protects over 219 million active devices on all inhabited planets

The threat is real

The internet realm is becoming increasingly troublesome, as the encyclopedia of viruses, worms, trojans and other malicious creations only keeps growing. However, when it comes to gamers it seems that one particular annoyance tops that list nowadays – Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. Whether it’s a TS server lagging for no apparent reason or an entire gaming server overloading, chances are you’ve experienced a DDoS attack before.

Dating back to 2000, DDoS attacks have been used to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users and there are several methods to accomplish this. One of the more popular methods is to flood a targeted system with incoming traffic to the point it cannot respond to legitimate traffic or only respond very slowly. This very method is the premium choice among disgruntled gamers who aim to sabotage a server or one particular system of another gamer they dislike for whatever reason.

So what can you do if you find yourself targeted by one such disgruntled gamer?

What can be done?

To see what can be done to help you deal with a DDoS attack or a potential one, we spoke to Jiri Sejtko, the Director of Viruslab Operations at Avast Software:

Q: What kind of security measures are available to protect yourself from a DDoS attack?

A: Basically, there is no protection if an attack is well done, however you can always do some steps to defend your system once the attack has happened.When you know how the attack is done, it’s possible to tweak (setup) your system and to try to find out where the attack came from.

Q: Can you elaborate on these steps?

A: One of the steps would be to configure your router to filter IPs or even protocols used in the attack – this step will help if the attacker didn’t use the whole bandwith of the given Internet connection. Best ask your Internet Service Provider to do this for you.

Q: So which ISPs would you recommend?

Read this answer and the entire article on the FNATIC website.

 

avast! Internet Security is the official antivirus software of the FNATIC team

avast! Internet Security is the official antivirus software of the FNATIC team

 

avast! Internet Security is the official antivirus software of the FNATIC team. avast! offers a massive 40% discount to FNATIC fans! Purchase your discounted avast! Internet Security from the dedicated FNATIC page at avast.com.

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 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 19th, 2014

How to use avast! Ransomware Removal?

howto2_enEarlier this week AVAST released a new Android app called avast! Ransomware Removal that will remove SimplLocker from infected devices.

SimplLocker blocks access to files on infected mobile devices by encrypting them. Without our free ransomware removal tool, infected users have to pay $21 to regain access to their personal files. SimplLocker  is the first ransomware that actually encrypts  files, so we developed a free tool for people to restore them. – said Ondrej Vlcek, Chief Operating Officer at AVAST Software.

After being available on Google Play for a few days to the public, the app has already been received with huge enthusiasm. We, however, spotted some questions regarding the tool on social media and addressed to our support team. In this article we will explain, how to install, run the tool and why it is important to uninstall it after AVAST has done its job!

1. How can I install the avast! Ransomware Removal tool, if my mobile is already being blocked by the malware? Read more…