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August 21st, 2014

Employees using public Wi-Fi put sensitive business data at risk – VPN services provide proper protection

travel tipsJohn Smith works for a small business with ten employees. The company is sending John abroad to meet with potential investors. Being the productive employee that John is, he connects to the public Wi-Fi provided by the airport to do some work. He visits the investors’ websites and sends a few emails to his colleagues. On the flight, John continues to surf the web using the in-flight Wi-Fi. Once John lands he goes to a café before his first meeting. At the café he connects to the Wi-Fi to download a revised version of his presentation. After his meetings, John goes to his hotel for the night. There, John connects to the hotel’s Wi-Fi to send his boss a summary of the meetings and to catch up on some news from home. To John’s disappointment, local news videos are blocked due to geographic restrictions.

This sequence of events is typical for traveling business professionals. Connecting to public Wi-Fi frequently while on the go may be a great way to get work done, but it can be dangerous if employees don’t use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection.

During John’s journey he connects to four different hotspots. John works for a small business, so they do not have an IT administrator who set up a secure VPN for John to use. John therefore transferred valuable information, entered log in credentials, and browsed websites that reveal his business’ intentions without any protection. Anyone could observe which websites John visited, read messages he sent, and access files he transferred via unsecured sites with tools readily available online.

Unless you are visiting sites beginning with HTTPS, your communication is unencrypted. This means all your communication is out in the open for anyone to see, including log in credentials. Sharing information, such as files, via file transfer protocol (FTP) while connected to public Wi-Fi is also never a good idea. Like visiting non-HTTPS sites, files and data transferred via FTP are up for grabs.

Don't forgetSmall businesses, without a VPN network, should turn to VPN services, like avast! SecureLine VPN to protect their data. A VPN creates a virtual shield and tunnels traffic to a proxy server. The proxy server protects business data, thus preventing hackers from accessing files and other sensitive information stored on the device. VPNs also anonymize location; an added plus for when business professionals who need access to content from home that may be blocked while traveling.

REMEMBER THIS!

With a VPN connection you can:

  • Protect your business data by preventing hackers from accessing files and other sensitive information stored on the device
  • Anonymize your location (IP address) online so you can access restricted content from home that might be blocked while traveling (Netflix, anyone?)
  • Hide your login details from snoops on public Wi-Fi. Avast encrypts all of your web use, including log ins and passwords.

avast! SecureLine VPN is available in packages of three, five or ten licenses and can be purchased from authorized AVAST resellers. avast! SecureLine VPN can also be purchased directly from the AVAST online shop.

Read more about VPN and avast! SecureLine from these blog posts:

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.

August 1st, 2014

Security and privacy settings across your Google accounts

Google is the most popular Internet search provider worldwide. The name itself has even become a verb: We don’t look online anymore, we Google everything. Moreover, we use plenty of Google products not even realizing how connected they are. Gmail, YouTube, Translator, Google Drive, Photos (the former Picassa), Play, as well as Google+. The integration of Google products has became stronger.  Now we access our email, YouTube videos, images, documents, and social networks such as Google+ and YouTube using one log in and credentials. Therefore it is extremely important to ensure that all of accounts are set up correctly. Following our previous articles on Security on Social Media, on Facebook privacy, Graph search or your reputation online,  let’s take a closer look at Google products with a special focus on privacy of your social account.

Security and privacy for your Google accounts

Google+ is a very specific social network, very often underestimated by the users. Most Google+ owners don’t even realize that they have an account on the social channel! You might not use it actively, but  it is important to have your data and profile under control.  So let’s start with the basics.

In the top right corner you can start editing your profile settings.

Privacy settings G+

Go to the privacy section. One of the most important features here is a 2-Step Verification.
Read more…

July 31st, 2014

Security basics: Internet scams and your identity

If you’re afraid “to do something wrong” when you sit behind your computer, this new series is for you.

AVAST has expertise in developing security products and we want to bring you a complete series about internet danger, with good practices to avoid scams, loss of money, and identity theft. You’re just about to join a tutorial that will help you avoid such threats in the virtual world.

Privacy July 2014 B (2)

First, being afraid to do something wrong is healthy because it will slow you down, which can be a good thing since most mistakes are made due to rushing through something. Computers, smartphones and tablets are advanced tech devices. Those of us who did not have the opportunity to learn and gather knowledge and experience on using these devices when we were young, can be a little shy with them. Searching for information about how to do something with your device is not always easy because people tend to use complicated language. Making it simple and easy-to-understand is a task that we assume with pleasure.

The Basics

The internet is a space for sharing and dialog. However, alongside this encouraging environment you will face some areas where you need to exercise caution: Inappropriate content for children like adult sites; sites which promote hateful content such as racism and intolerance; and cybercriminals who use different methods to steal your personal, banking, and credit card data.

You may be tempted to think that no one will be interested in your computer, or that your computer cannot be found in the internet jungle. That would be a mistake.

Cybercriminals hide in the jungle and misuse your computer as a base to attack others, and spread viruses (malware) or spam. Think of it this way – the banking systems and e-commerce sites have, in general, a much bigger and more sophisticated security arsenal than your own computer (smartphone or tablet), and yours is the weakest point in this chain.

So let’s start from the same place.

Here’s The Rule: All safety measures you take in real life should be applied when you use the internet: Visit only trustworthy sites and stores, do not share your personal data with anyone, lock the doors, and put an alarm. AVAST believes security implies prevention: Be prepared before something bad surprises you.

Your identity is up for grabs

Your personal data or your credentials for a particular site (username and password) are quite valuable to cybercrooks. With this data, scammers act on your behalf; sending emails (like the phishing ones we’ve written about lately), shopping with your credit card, and doing things that can cause harm to you, not only financially but also for your reputation. They could share false information about you, photos and personal data. This could led to problems when, for instance, you are looking for a new job, but also in your personal and family life.

Create strong passwords to protect your online accountsTaking care of your passwords is essential. Use different passwords for each service or internet site. You should create the so-called strong passwords: CAPS letters, symbols, and numbers. AVAST offers an automated solution for your passwords called avast! EasyPass. This way, using different and secure passwords, cybercriminals can’t easy guess your credentials, enter in sites, or shop in your behalf.

Do not answer unsolicited emails or sales promotions that promise you a financial return after you make a small payment. Never help or join into the financial operations of a third party, close to you or not. Do not trust in NGOs that ask for donations, rather look for the official sites to contribute. Never giveaway your banking data for “personal credit and rewards” announcements, for example, bogus companies offering jobs that ask for a preliminary payment. Scams that prey on your emotions are prevalent. Dating scams in-the-wild ask for money to make a trip to meet your  love interest personally. In fact, after you pay, you’ll never see your love again. Beware of these types of scenarios.

How can we avoid these scams? Generally, they ask for a quick and secret decision and, often they have spelling and grammar errors because many still originate from foreign locales and rely on online translation software to spread the scams all over the world.

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.

July 14th, 2014

Common passwords inspire uncommon dress

password dress

Lorrie Cranor models her famous Password dress in front of the “Security Blanket” quilt.

Weak passwords make for creative design.

If you use 123456 or password as your password, you may as well wear it for all to see. It’s THAT easy to crack.

To illustrate this point, Lorrie Cranor, quilt artist, and oh yeah,  director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, designed fabric based on the extensive research she and her students conducted on the weaknesses of text-based passwords. The quilt she made is aptly named “The Security Blanket,” and is designed from a word cloud of the 1,000 most commonly found passwords from the 2010 RockYou.com hack. Professor Cranor made a Password dress to go with the password quilt. The fabric is available for purchase from Spoonflower.

Iloveyou, you little monkey

The most popular password, 123456, forms a backdrop across the whole quilt. But what intrigued Cranor was not the “the obvious lazy choices,” but what else people choose as passwords. She went through the list and organized the passwords into themes. Many passwords fell into multiple themes, so she tried to think like a RockYou user and extract some meaning from their choices.

Love is a strong theme, and the research found that love-themed words make up the majority of non-numeric passwords. Iloveyou in English and other languages is common. The names of pets are common, and Princess showed up in the top 1,000 and simultaneously on lists of popular pet names. Chocolate is the most frequent of the food-related passwords, with chicken and banana(s) coming up often.

Chicken was a surprise to me, as was monkey, the 14th most popular password. Could RockYou users have an affinity for monkeys because of a game, or do they just like monkeys? Is it related to bananas? Do gamers eat more bananas?

Some things we’ll just have to speculate about…

Swear words, insults, and adult language showed up in the top 1000 passwords, “but impolite passwords are much less prevalent than the more tender love-related words,” wrote Cranor in her blog.

Numbers are even better. Three times as many people chose 123456 over password, and 12345 and 123456789 were also more popular choices. It seems that when required to use a number in a password, people overwhelmingly pick the same number, or always use the number in the same location in their passwords.

Top 10 worst passwords

Security developer SplashData published the Worst Passwords of 2013. Check the list to see if you use any of these:

Rank Password Change from 2012
1 123456 Up 1
2 password Down 1
3 12345678 Unchanged
4 qwerty Up 1
5 abc123 Down 1
6 123456789 New
7 111111 Up 2
8 1234567 Up 5
9 iloveyou Up 2
10 adobe123 New

Tips and tricks

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

Read more from the AVAST blog

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

Are hackers’ passwords stronger than regular passwords?

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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July 11th, 2014

Six ways to secure your smartphone

AR AMSpost-enI bet you would be lost without your smartphone. It’s your lifeline to contacts, emails, and personal information, not to mention all those apps that you use for fun, entertainment, and business. You probably have bought something using your phone, so your credit card information is there, as well as your account log ins. In other words, it would be disastrous to lose it to a thief or be infected with a data-stealing app.

Keep reading for some solid tips that will help you secure your Android smartphones and tablets.

1. Install security software

Protect your smartphone or tablet from malicious attacks. Malware targeted at Android devices is increasing daily, and we project that it will be at PC levels in the next 4 years. Even though malware is not likely to affect you (yet), avast! Mobile Security & Anti-theft protects your device , plus it helps you locate your device if it is lost or stolen.

TIP: When you upgrade to avast! Mobile Premium you get a feature called Password Check. This feature keeps nosy people and data thieves from snooping around your messages or emails. After 3 wrong attempts to break in, your phone is locked.

2. Use trusted stores to install apps

Malware may not be a huge threat yet, but cybercrooks are using apps in subtle ways, so you need to be aware of what you’re downloading onto your device. The major app stores like Google Play and Amazon are the safest places to go for apps. These have rigorous vetting procedures, so they are reliable sources. The ones you need to watch out for are the unregulated third party app stores predominantly from the Asia or the Middle East.

TIP: For an extra safeguard on your Android device, stop the installation of apps from unknown sources. Go to Settings>Security and uncheck the Unknown Sources option. Check the Verify Apps option to block or warn you before installing apps that may cause harm.

3. Use a PIN or password and lock your apps

Your Android phone has its own security settings, so we recommend that you set a PIN number with a strong number code to the lock screen. To set your PIN go to Settings>Lock screen to set a pattern or passcode.

TIP: Use avast! Mobile Security App Lock to set a PIN for apps you want to keep private, like online shopping and banking apps. You can lock any two apps with a PIN/gesture using our free product; get unlimited app locking with the Premium product.

Read more…

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 5th, 2014

SimplLocker does what its name suggests: Simply locks your phone!

A new Android mobile Trojan called SimplLocker has emerged from a rather shady Russian forum, encrypting files for ransom. AVAST detects the Trojan as Android:Simplocker, avast! Mobile Security and avast! Mobile Premium users can breathe a sigh of relief; we protect from it!

malware, mobile malware, Trojan, SimplockerThe Trojan was discovered on an underground Russian forum by security researchers at ESET. The Trojan is disguised as an app suitable for adults only. Once downloaded, the Trojan scans the device’s SD card for images, documents and videos, encrypting them using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The Trojan then displays a message in Russian, warning the victim that their phone has been locked, and accusing the victim of having viewed and downloaded child pornography. The Trojan demands a $21 ransom be paid in Ukrainian currency within 24 hours, claiming it will delete all the files it has encrypted if it does not receive the ransom. Nikolaos Chrysaidos, Android Malware Analyst at AVAST, found that the malware will not delete any of the encrypted files, because it doesn’t have the functionality to do so. Targets cannot escape the message unless they deposit the ransom at a payment kiosk using MoneXy. If the ransom is paid the malware waits for a command from its command and control server (C&C) to decrypt the files.

What can we learn from this?

Although this Trojan only targets a specific region and is not available on the Google Play Store, it should not be taken lightly. This is just the beginning of mobile malware, and is thought to be a proof-of-concept. Mobile ransomware especially is predicted to become more and more popular. Once malware writers have more practice, see that they can get easy money from methods like this, they will become very greedy and sneaky.

We can only speculate about methods they will come up with to eventually get their malicious apps onto official markets, such as Google Play, or even take more advantage of alternative outlets such as mobile browsers and email attachments. It is therefore imperative that people download antivirus protection for their smartphones and tablets. Mobile devices contain massive amounts of valuable data and are therefore a major target. 

Ransomware can be an effective method for criminals to exploit vulnerable mobile users, many of which don’t back up their data. Just as in ransomware targeting PCs, this makes the threat of losing sentimental data, such as photos of family and friends or official documents, immense.

Don’t give cybercriminals a chance. Protect yourself by downloading avast! Mobile Security for FREE.

May 26th, 2014

AVAST forum offline due to attack

The AVAST forum is currently offline and will remain so for a brief period. It was hacked over this past weekend and user nicknames, user names, email addresses and hashed (one-way encrypted) passwords were compromised. Even though the passwords were hashed, it could be possible for a sophisticated thief to derive many of the passwords. If you use the same password and user names to log into any other sites, please change those passwords immediately. Once our forum is back online, all users will be required to set new passwords as the compromised passwords will no longer work.

This issue only affects our community-support forum. Less than 0.2% of our 200 million users were affected. No payment, license, or financial systems or other data was compromised.

We are now rebuilding the forum and moving it to a different software platform. When it returns, it will be faster and more secure. This forum for many years has been hosted on a third-party software platform and how the attacker breached the forum is not yet known. However, we do believe that the attack just occurred and we detected it essentially immediately.

We realize that it is serious to have these usernames stolen and regret the concern and inconvenience it causes you. However, this is an isolated third-party system and your sensitive data remains secure.

Sincerely,

Vince Steckler

CEO AVAST Software

May 26th, 2014

Your child on Facebook: learn about the privacy settings

Security matters to everyone, however security of our children is our top priority. We make sure that they are safe at school, home, and on the streets. Equally we need to provide them with a safe experience in the cyberworld. Recently, we published a blog about general online security of the children, which suggested that you take time and help your child with privacy settings on Facebook. Don’t worry, if you have no clue where to start, we will guide you through the labyrinth of sophisticated security and privacy settings settings. Follow our tips to secure yourself and your child on the most popular social network.

Privacy settings

Like other Internet giants, Facebook has been especially vulnerable to criticisms about privacy. In particular, critics have complained that even if you deactivate your account, the information can still remain on the network and be subject to web searches.~ comments Mashable in the article on recent Facebook privacy update

Following users’ complaints regarding privacy issues, Facebook decided to change the default settings of your status updates to be the visible for Friends only instead of Public. This however applies to Facebook newbies only! So if you and your children are already users, you still have a job to do! :)
Security shortcut

Facebook regularly updates its settings and as a result your profile settings can be restored to the default. In terms of  privacy it means: Everything is PUBLIC. Therefore it’s extremely important to review your profile regularly . You will not be able to influence everything, however there are an advanced number of settings that can be fully controlled by you. The three basic areas that you should focus on are:

  1. 1. Who can see your posts and images?
  2. 2. Who can contact you?
  3. 3. How you can help your child block harassing Facebook friends.

You will find this setting in the right top corner on the blue bar, in the Privacy Shortcuts section. Click on the See More Settings to open the window below and follow our suggestions.

Advacne privacz settings Read more…

May 21st, 2014

Heartbleed: Almost Everyone Plans to Protect Themselves, but Less than Half of People Actually Have

Have you heard about Heartbleed? Yes? Then you belong to a minority. Following the Heartbleed threat, the bug that took advantage of a vulnerability in OpenSSL, AVAST conducted an online survey with 268,000 respondents worldwide and found that three out of four people were not aware of the the Heartbleed threat, which affected millions of sites and mobile apps.

AVAST then explained Heartbleed to these respondents. When asked if they would change their passwords after checking which sites were affected, nine out of ten said they would take action. This high number is interesting from a psychological standpoint as it shows how people think when initially confronted with a threat. People immediately plan on taking the appropriate measures to protect themselves against future threats, but how many actually follow through with their plans? In reality, less than half of people follow through with their security plans: Only 40% of the respondents who were aware of Heartbleed said they had actually changed their passwords. This number closely matches Pew’s Heartbleed report which found that 39% of Internet users have changed their passwords or canceled accounts.

Heartbleed, free antivirus, password, security

“This kind of thing never affects me”

Many respondents, both those aware and unaware of the threat, said they don’t want to change their passwords because they don’t believe their accounts have been compromised. This makes one wonder if the 41% of respondents who were aware of the threat, but don’t believe they have been affected, either think the media has exaggerated the issue – or if they have a “this kind of thing never affects me” attitude. One in ten respondents believes that the next security breach will happen soon and they therefore don’t see the point in changing their passwords. This laissez-faire attitude could be caused by the fact that many have not seen concrete repercussions of the threat or have not yet been directly notified of the threat by the platforms they use. One of the most concerning facts revealed by the survey is that many people lack the know-how to protect themselves. One in ten respondents hasn’t changed their passwords because they don’t know how to change them. 

Furthermore, almost half of both respondents, aware and unaware of the threat, said they would change their passwords once the affected platforms have implemented patches and informed them of the changes.

Passwords are like keys that protect our sensitive data online, just as locks protect the precious objects in our homes. It is recommendable to stay away from affected sites that have not yet issued patches. Once sites have implemented the necessary fixes, passwords should be changed and strengthened with the same manner of urgency as you would change the locks on your home if you were to lose your keys or if your key were to get stolen.

Use a password manager to protect all of your accounts with ironclad passwords 

Changing and memorizing new passwords over and over again isn’t easy, especially since passwords should consist of at least eight characters – or according to latest recommendations even sixteen or more. They should include a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

A password manager like our avast! EasyPass helps encrypt and protect personal information online. avast! EasyPass creates strong, random passwords of up to 512 characters and secures your information via military-grade encryption, making password management simple and secure. avast! EasyPass is currently available at a discounted price of  $9.99 a year.

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.