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January 7th, 2014

AVAST response to open letter from Bits of Freedom

Recently an open letter from Bits of Freedom, a group comprised of 24 digital rights organizations and academics, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in the US and Netzpolitik.org in Germany, was sent to security software vendors. AVAST did not receive the letter “officially,” although our company was listed among the vendors.

The purpose of the open letter was to request a clarification of our policy on the use of software for the purpose of government-sanctioned surveillance of its citizens. In other words, do we look the other way when governments or law enforcement agencies install malware on private citizens’ personal computers to collect data?

It has become very clear that governments will do anything to gain access to as much information as possible,” says Bits of Freedom’s Ton Siedsma. “Requests like these, coming from law enforcement agencies or secret services, lower the general level of protection of all users of antivirus software. The software isn’t just used by suspects, but by all of us. This is something to be very concerned about, so we have asked the antivirus software vendors for transparency on this matter.

AVAST’s Chief Technology Officer, Ondřej Vlček, responded to their questions:

1. Have you ever detected the use of software by any government (or state actor) for the purpose of surveillance?
Yes, we have had incidences where it became apparent that software our programs detected was in fact surveillance software. Although it’s not always 100% clear who is behind this, in some cases we had reasons to believe that it was distributed by government institutions.

2. Have you ever been approached with a request by a government, requesting that the presence of specific software is not detected, or if detected, not notified to the user of your software? And if so, could you provide information on the legal basis of this request, the specific kind of software you were supposed to allow and the period of time which you were supposed to allow this use?
No. We have never been approached by any government agency, but we also don’t think that this realistically would ever happen. It would be very risky for a government agency to ask antivirus companies to ignore and not detect their malware. They can’t expect that security companies would keep this information to themselves; this would therefore risk the news about their malware getting leaked to the media faster than they can think.

3. Have you ever granted such a request? If so, could you provide the same information as in the point mentioned above and the considerations which led to the decision to comply with the request from the government?
No, we have never granted such a request.

4. Could you clarify how you would respond to such a request in the future?
The security and privacy of our users has been the core of our business for 25 years. Whenever we detect malware, regardless of its origin or type, we always protect our users. This includes malware from governments and official institutions – if we detect the malware, no matter the origin of the creator, we create a solution to protect our users.

Categories: General Tags: , ,
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December 29th, 2013

What bugged AVAST users this year: NSA spooked people about privacy

privacy word of yearPRIVACY. It’s the word of the year from dictionary.com. With reports of the NSA turning the internet into a vast surveillance platform, FBI agents and hackers monitoring citizens through home appliances, web-browser tracking cookies multiplying like rabbits, and information you post to social networking sites yourself, the loss of individual’s online privacy and the extensive access of personal data became a mainstream topic in 2013.

In an interview about security issues with SC Magazine, Vincent Steckler, AVAST’s CEO said that the next aspect of security that needs consideration is privacy. Both consumers and corporates are going to need social media protection capabilities, including checking of links for malware, better control of privacy settings, and control over apps. That goes for tracking in browsers as well.

Abandon all privacy, ye who enter here

Ondřej Vlček, AVAST’s Chief Technology Officer, agrees. “’Do not track in browsers’ doesn’t really work,” he says. “It’s up to the servers whether to adhere to [the HTTP Do Not Tracker header] or not. Most commercial services don’t adhere to it.”

Raise your hand if you use your smartphone to surf the web, compare prices, or buy movie tickets? (That looks like most of us.) Lots of people don’t realize that mobile brands, apps and websites ‘track’ their online movements. Vlček said there are plug-ins that remove things like tracking from ad networks, analytics services or Facebook’s Like buttons without breaking the service. He suggests this approach is an important piece of the puzzle for privacy protection.

Read more…

October 12th, 2013

Cyber awareness tips for people on-the-go

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Most AVAST users take their devices with them to school and work, so we asked for security tips for people on-the-go. Congratulations to Bruno V. from Brazil who wrote the winning tip:

#SecurityTip:

To spend the day with no worries in the rush of daily tasks you need to have the following:

By accessing sites and emails never forget to log off the user account to leave.

Never go to unknown links to check for new information, the rush at the moment you can access places where you usually do not enter.

When doing a search, be wary of information and programs that promise many things without much effort.

Have a program to secure permanent protection, accurate and reliable. In short, have AVAST installed on your computer!

While you take care of your routine, AVAST cares for you!

AVAST protection without worries! 24 hours of dedication to its main asset, you!

Some tips were quite practical, like this one from Val A. of the Philippines:

#1. In rainy days, use Waterproof bag when on the go
#2. Secure the laptop , tablet, smartphone with a password before login (don’t share your password with everyone)
#3. Avoid gadgets in direct sunlight (this is one of the basic protocol)
#4. Disconnect Bluetooth every after use
#5. Don’t let others borrow your laptop, tablet or smartphone specially those whom do you never meet before.

AND LASTLY
#6. Please.  Read the User Manual, Guidelines, Safety and precautions of your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Thanks to all our Facebook fans who shared their security tips with us. These are valuable suggestions for cyber awareness (and rainy days) that we will continue to share with others. Bruno won Round 4 of our #SecurityTip contest and receives a Nexus 7 tablet and a 1-year license for avast! Internet Security. Five participants also won a 1-year license for avast! Internet Security for getting the most votes for their tip. Congratulations to:

  • Celedonia S.  from Peru
  • Postolachi D. from Romania
  • Alejandro C. from Mexico
  • Abdul W. from Pakistan
  • Reginald R. from Indonesia

Follow AVAST

During this month, we’ll talk more about cybersecurity with AVAST experts and share tips that you can adopt and share.  For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please visit our blog often and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

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October 11th, 2013

How to use new graph search on Facebook?

facebook-suchmaschine-graph-searchOn September 30th, Facebook introduced changes on the New Graph Search. Currently available only on desktops, it will be rolled out in phases. Since its release in January 2013, Graph Search has gone through a great transformation. Users are now allowed to search for status history, images, check-ins, comments -  basically anything. The goal is to provide users with enhanced search options, so they can find interesting information without leaving the social network.

How does Facebook Graph Search work?

The top search bar works similarly to a browser search engine. The exception is that it searches within Facebook itself and  requires specific search commands to make your search successful. For example, imagine you are a passionate bowler. You would like to set up a bowling team, however you don’t know any fellow bowlers in your hometown. Now you can log in on Facebook and search using the following search terms:

People who checked in at Bowling Alleys in Los Angeles, California  

You will see all your friends who may have gone bowling without your knowledge,  as well as other people, you may or may not know, who checked in. You can interact with them and, for example, establish a Facebook Interest group, to finally create your dream bowling team.

Another example: You love to travel and you would like to investigate places you are planning to visit ahead. Search for:

Images taken in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

to preview all public pictures of the place you want to visit. Moreover you can see the comments, recommendations, and tips from others. A final example:

TV shows my friends who live in Dallas, Texas like Read more…

October 9th, 2013

Attempted hack against AVAST

Yesterday, several companies had their websites hijacked by pro-Palestinian hackers. We can confirm that there was also a hacker attempt against the AVAST site – we assume from the same group – but we took immediate steps and therefore were able to contain it.

According to published reports, the hacked companies’ accounts, used to manage their DNS records at their vendor, Network Solutions, have been reset. This allowed the hackers to take control of the websites in question. It’s unlikely that any of the sites that were attacked lost control of any of their own servers, so customer data most likely was not compromised.

“We ourselves received a notification from Network Solutions saying our email had been changed. We knew we had not requested that so we immediately took action and changed our passwords, which protected us,” said Vincent Steckler, AVAST CEO

Stay cyber aware when company accounts get hacked

Hackers have been busy recently– Adobe announced on Thursday that it has been the target of a major security breach in which sensitive and personal data about millions of its customers have been put at risk.

If  you get a notification from an online provider  that your email address or a password was changed – no matter if it’s from your bank, an online shop, or any other online site – and you didn’t request these changes, you need to take steps to protect yourself by immediately changing your passwords for these sites.

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+.

Categories: General Tags: , , , ,
October 7th, 2013

AVAST users share social media safety tips to build Cyber Awareness

Don’t talk to strangers.

Look both ways before crossing the road.

These little warnings given to children by moms everywhere are meant to make them aware of their surroundings.  Even when we’re grown, we still follow these suggestions. In anticipation of National Cyber Security Awareness Month and the European Cyber Security Month, we asked AVAST users for cyber awareness tips and gave prizes for those we found most valuable and those that others voted for.

During round 3 of our #SecurityTip contest, we asked about safety on social media,

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Congratulations to Ajla H. of Bosnia and Herzegovina who wrote the winning tip:

#SecurityTip
I would recommend my friends to learn how to use privacy and security settings on social networks, because then they can control who sees their posts and control who can contact them. I would also recommend them not to post pictures they wouldn’t want their parents or future employers to see. And my last tip is to keep their personal information to themselves so no one can steal their identity. ;)

Ajla receives a Nexus 7 tablet and a 1-year license for avast! Internet Security. A 1-year license for avast! Internet Security went to five participants also asked their friends to vote for their tip. Congratulations to:

  • Guylaine H. from Canada
  • Syed A. from Pakistan
  • Jeff A. from Costa Rica
  • Tanveer A. from Pakistan
  • Kelvin I. from Philippines

Thanks to all our Facebook fans who added their security tips each week. These are valuable suggestions for cyber awareness that we will continue to share with others.

Follow AVAST

During this month, we’ll talk more about cybersecurity with AVAST experts and share tips that you can adopt and share.  For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please visit our blog often and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

 

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September 13th, 2013

AVAST #SecurityTip contest: The best of round 1

The first round of the AVAST #SecurityTip contest has ended. Users participate by sharing their knowledge with others and at the same time they get a chance to win free avast! Mobile Premium and avast! Internet Security licenses, as well as Nexus 7 tablets and a Nexus 4 smartphone. The contest has four rounds and each week we will ask you a different question. So, don’t miss your chance! Enter here, to submit your tip.

During Round 1, we asked participants the following question:

 

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Now we would like to share with you the most valuable, creative, and helpful tips to keep kids stay safe online. Here they are:

Tip 1. Listen up, kids. NEVER give your password away, even to your “best friend”. ~Sheila E.

Tip 2. Never accept requests from strangers. Always alert parents when strangers want to contact you or chat with you on-line. ~Patricia H.

Read more…

September 12th, 2013

3 million licenses issued for AVAST Free for Education

We’re really excited to announce that we’ve just reached the 3 million mark for number of licenses we’ve issued on the AVAST Free for Education program!

Some 2500 schools, libraries, universities and other educational institutions in the USA are benefiting from this program by receiving free business-grade antivirus protection.

The AVAST Free for Education league table

We’ve produced our very own league table to show which are the top states for number of licenses issued – how well is your state doing?

 

Rank State Number of licenses
1 California 251 887
2 Texas 237 410
3 Indiana 172 026
4 Missouri 167 494
5 Illinois 152 329
6 Ohio 113 729
7 Michigan 107 315
8 Pennsylvania 100 071
9 Florida 76 683
10 New York 71 346

 

Congratulations to California, who have received over a quarter of a million FREE licenses from AVAST.

We love to hear from our customers about how the program is benefiting them. Here are some of the feedback we’ve had from our schools on this program:

 

“We appreciate the offer and opportunity AVAST has given to Education.  We’ve been using this product for approximately 1 year now and have to say we are more than thrilled with it.  Thank you AVAST!”
Jim Giordano, IT Manager, Anaheim City School District

“We have been very happy with the support we have received… Avast is a great product at a great price – it provides the tools administrators need to keep their computers safe.”
Jeffrey Such, Director of Technology, Camp Tecumseh YMCA

Putnam Schools District are also thrilled to be using our free software. We went to visit them recently, hear what they have to say here:

 

If you’re a school in the US that hasn’t benefited from our program yet, why not apply online here: www.avast.com/education

Alternatively feel free to contact me with any comments or questions: king@avast.com

 

 

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September 6th, 2013

What’s Hot on Social: Security and privacy update

Millions of users access social networks every day in order to share, engage, and look for information as well as entertainment. The transparency of social networks come with a risk and we very often expose ourselves to hackers and scammers that can take advantage of information we share. Social platforms constantly improve security and privacy settings, to deliver a safe experience to the users, but who has time to follow all this news? Well, you can relax and rely on us. AVAST specialists are here to deliver this information in an accessible way.

Last month we prepared a security and privacy update following the most important changes on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Check what has changed since than to enjoy a secure social media experience!

shutterstock_113587513Facebook updated its Privacy policy   

At the end of August, Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan published an official blog post, as a response to rumors and extensive discussion on the company’s Data Use Policy. One of the biggest concerns were related to how Facebook displays our data to its clients advertising on the social network. Currently pages can target us even by our name.

Advertisers may also be able to reach you on Facebook using the information they already have about you (such as email addresses or whether you have visited their websites previously).

#AVASTtip: There is not much space for us users to really influence it, but Facebook is open to user feedback. If you would like to comment or express your opinion, you can do it here .

Read more…

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August 27th, 2013

Linux Trojan “Hand of Thief” ungloved

A new threat for the Linux platform was first mentioned on August 7th by RSA researchers, where it was dubbed Hand of Thief.  The two main capabilities of this Trojan are form-grabbing of Linux-specific browsers and entering a victim’s computer by a back-door. Moreover, it is empowered with features like anti-virtualization and anti-monitoring. With the level of overall sophistication Hand of Thief displays, it can be compared to infamous non-Windows threats such as the FlashBack Trojan for MacOsX platform discovered last year or Trojan Obad for Android from recent times.

A detailed analysis uncovers the following structure of the initial file with all parts after the dropper being encrypted (hexadecimal number displays starting offset of a block):

handofthief_scheme

Read more…