Wi-Fi and encryption
Data transmitted over a wireless network can be either unencrypted or encrypted. While both options are available to users, the use of open, unprotected Wi-Fi networks has become increasingly popular across the globe. In the case of open wireless networks, the transmitted data are unencrypted and might be visible to others, as is shown in the screenshot below. To resolve this issue, many wireless networks use password protection. However, the method and strength of these passwords matter: if a weak encryption method, such as WEP, is used, an attacker can simply crack the password and decrypt the device’s communication. Hence, the use of a strong encryption such as WPA/WPA2 is suggested. The length of a password is another important factor to its strength — a strongly encrypted communication with a short key length can still be cracked by hackers within a short amount of time. Because of this, a key length of longer than 8 characters is strongly recommended.
(Figure 1: List of available wireless networks featuring both encrypted and unencrypted options.)
Today, Avast announced the launch of Avast GrimeFighter at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The new application helps Android users free extra memory on their devices with just a few taps so they can save the data that matters to them while enjoying a faster, smoother performance on their devices.
How Avast GrimeFighter works
Avast GrimeFighter begins by scanning all applications on an Android device, identifying unimportant or unnecessary data that could be eliminated without damaging applications’ functionalities. Using GrimeFighter’s easy-to-use interface, users can choose from two modes that allow them to eliminate excess files with ease: Safe Cleaner and Advanced Cleaner. Safe Cleaner is a customizable scanner that quickly identifies unimportant data for instant, one-tap removal. Advanced Cleaner runs in parallel to Safe Cleaner, mapping all of the device’s storage and creating a simple overview of all files and applications that take up space. Advanced Cleaner locates inflated or unused applications and arranges them by file type, size, usage, or name, so users can permanently remove the files and free up storage space.
In addition to cleaning up unwanted data, Avast GrimeFighter helps maximize storage capacity by syncing with personal cloud storage accounts so users can manage their device’s storage without having to delete valuable data. Users can drag files to the cloud icon and GrimeFighter will instantly transfer them to a safe folder in the cloud. Avast GrimeFighter is currently compatible with Dropbox and can assist users in setting up a Dropbox account. Additional popular cloud storage solutions will be added soon.
How does excess data get accumulated?
Bits and pieces of data accumulate on your device, whether you are aware of it or not. GrimeFighter helps you locate excess data that you wouldn’t typically be able to find, such as data left over from initiated app downloads, residual data, thumbnails, and app caches. Popular apps, like Facebook and Instagram, also create excess data on your device as they inflate from their original download size when used regularly. Avast tested some of the most popular Android apps and found that their size can grow exponentially during one week of heavy usage:
install size: additional data accumulated:
1) Facebook 36.7MB 153MB
2) Flipboard 12.6MB 71.1MB
3) Google Maps 23.21MB 68.8MB
Avast GrimeFighter will help the more than one billion Android users free up anywhere from 500MB to 1GB of storage per device to enjoy faster performance and is available for download on Google Play.
Avast mobile security experts launched a new app today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Avast SecureMe is the world’s first application that gives iPhone and iPad users a tool to protect their devices and personal data when they connect to Wi-Fi networks. The free app automatically locates Wi-Fi networks and tells users which of them are safe. Since many users connect without knowing the status of the Wi-Fi network – whether it’s protected or not – Avast SecureMe will create a secure connection in order to keep them safe.
“Public Wi-Fi and unsecured routers have become prime targets for hackers, which presents new risks for smartphones and tablets – even iOS devices aren’t immune,” said Jude McColgan, President of Mobile at Avast.
Avast SecureMe will be available in a invitation-only public beta test within the next few weeks. Please sign up here, and the SecureMe team will contact you.
The app notifies you if it finds security issues
Avast SecureMe includes a feature called Wi-Fi Security. (This feature is also available for Android users within the Avast Mobile Security app available on Google Play.) People who use open Wi-Fi in public areas such as airports, hotels, or cafes will find this helpful. This feature’s job is to scan Wi-Fi connections and notify you if it finds any security issues including routers with weak passwords, unsecured wireless networks, and routers with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.
“Avast SecureMe and Avast Mobile Security offer users a simple, one-touch solution to find and choose safe networks to protect themselves from the threat of stolen personal data,” said McColgan.
What’s the risk that my personal data will be stolen?
If you use unsecured Wi-Fi when you log in to a banking site, for example, thieves can capture your log in credentials which can lead to identify theft. On unprotected Wi-Fi networks, thieves can also easily see emails, browsing history, and personal data if you do not use a secure or encrypted connection like a virtual private network (VPN). See our global Wi-Fi hacking experiment to see how widespread the threat really is.
The SecureMe app includes a VPN to protect your privacy
Avast SecureMe features a VPN to secure your connections while you conduct online tasks you want to remain private, especially checking emails, doing your online banking, and even visiting your favorite social network sites. Avast SecureMe automatically connects to the secure VPN when it detects that you have connected to a public Wi-Fi making all transferred data invisible to prying eyes. For convenience, you can disable the protection for Wi-Fi connections you trust, like your home network.
Avast SecureMe for iOS will be available soon in the iTunes Store. Before it’s widespread release, we will conduct an invitation-only public beta test. Please sign up here, and the SecureMe team will contact you.
The Wi-Fi Security feature is now also included in the Avast Mobile Security app for Android, available on Google Play.
The use of open, unprotected Wi-Fi networks has become increasingly popular across the globe. Whether you’re traveling around a new city and rely on public Wi-Fi networks to get around or you’re at your favorite coffee shop and connect to its Wi-Fi, you’re left in a vulnerable situation when it comes to protecting your data. Just as you lock the door of your house when you leave, you should also use a security app if using public Wi-Fi.
Avast’s hack experiment examines browsing habits of people across the globe
The Avast team recently undertook a global hacking experiment, where our mobile security experts traveled to cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia to observe the public Wi-Fi activity in nine major metropolitan areas. Our experiment revealed that most mobile users aren’t taking adequate steps to protect their data and privacy from cybercriminals. In the U.S., the Avast mobile experts visited Chicago, New York, and San Francisco; in Europe, they visited Barcelona, Berlin, and London; and in Asia, they traveled to Hong Kong, Seoul, and Taipei. Each of our experts was equipped with a laptop and a Wi-Fi adapter with the ability to monitor the Wi-Fi traffic in the area. For this purpose, we developed a proprietary app, monitoring the wireless traffic at 2.4 GHz frequency. It’s important to mention that there are commercial Wi-Fi monitoring apps like this available in the market that are easy-to-use, and available for free.
The study revealed that users in Asia are the most prone to attacks. Users in San Francisco and Barcelona were most likely to take steps to protect their browsing, and users in Europe were also conscious about using secure connections. While mobile users in Asia were most likely to join open networks, Europeans and Americans were slightly less so; in Seoul, 99 out of 100 users joined unsecured networks, compared with just 80 out of 100 in Barcelona.
1) Seoul: 99 out of 100
2) Hong Kong: 98 out of 100
3) Taipei: 97 out of 100
4) Chicago: 96 out of 100
5) New York: 91 out of 100
6) Berlin: 88 out of 100
7) London: 83 out of 100
8) Barcelona: 80 out of 100
9) San Francisco: 80 out of 100
Our experiment shed light on the fact that a significant portion of mobile users browse primarily on unsecured HTTP sites. Ninety-seven percent of users in Asia connect to open, unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Seven out of ten password-protected routers use weak encryption methods, making it simple for them to be hacked. Nearly one half of the web traffic in Asia takes place on unprotected HTTP sites, compared with one third U.S. traffic and roughly one quarter of European traffic. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that there are more websites in Europe and the U.S. that use the HTTPS protocol than in Asia.
So, how much of your browsing activity can actually be monitored?
Because HTTP traffic is unprotected, our team was able to view all of the users’ browsing activity, including domain and page history, searches, personal log in information, videos, emails, and comments. Read more…
New mobile apps, a live Wi-Fi hack, results of a global Wi-Fi experiment, a demonstration of mobile malware, and Avast mobile experts can all be found at Avast’s booth (hall 5 stand 5K29) at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Open Wi-Fi Risks and Live Demonstration
Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks at airports, hotels, or cafes has become common practice for people around the world. Many users are, however, unaware that their sensitive data is visible to hackers if they don’t use protection. This data includes emails, messages, passwords and browsing history – information you don’t necessarily want the guy sipping the latte next to you at the cafe to see. Avast experts traveled to different cities across the U.S., as well as Europe and Asia, to find out how much information is openly shared via public Wi-Fi. They found that one-third of browsing traffic in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago is openly visible for hackers.
At the Congress, Avast will conduct a Wi-Fi hack demonstration. The demonstration will allow visitors to see, first hand, what a hacker can access if they don’t use protection. Participants can connect to Avast’s (password protected) Wi-Fi network to browse and send messages as they normally would when connected to open Wi-Fi. To demonstrate how this information would look through the eyes of a hacker, their activities will be displayed on a screen at the Avast stand.
Mobile Malware and Simplocker Demonstration
Mobile malware is often perceived as a myth, yet Avast currently has more than one million samples of mobile malware in its database. Avast recently discovered a new variant of the mobile ransomware, Simplocker, which will also be demonstrated during the Congress. Visitors can see how the malware disguises itself, behaves, and will learn how they can protect themselves.
Introducing Avast’s New Suite of Apps
Avast will be introducing a suite of new apps at this year’s Mobile World Congress, including productivity and security apps for Android and iOS. Avast GrimeFighter and Avast Battery Saver address two of the most common complaints for Android users: storage concerns and battery life. Avast GrimeFighter helps users free extra storage on their devices by identifying unimportant data for one-tap removal, while Avast Battery Saver extends battery life up to 24 hours by learning the user’s behavior and optimizing features to preserve battery power.
Avast SecureMe is a dual solution app that helps iOS users identify secure Wi-Fi connections and protect personal data while using public Wi-Fi connections.
Wi-Fi Security, a feature available in Avast SecureMe, and coming soon to Avast Mobile Security for Android, prevents users from falling victim to Domain Name Server (DNS) hijacking by exposing vulnerabilities in routers they want to connect to.
We look forward to meeting you!
If you are attending this year’s Mobile World Congress, feel free to stop by the Avast booth to speak with Avast experts, learn more results from Avast’s global Wi-Fi experiment, see Avast’s new mobile apps and participate in the Wi-Fi demonstration. If you aren’t attending, make sure to check our blog, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook for updates during the Congress!
Note to media: If you would like to set up a meeting with Avast, please email PR@avast.com.
Not too many years ago we had phones that only made calls. Smartphones are the newest generation of phones that bring a lot of possibilities right to our fingers through the apps specifically designed for them. We all got used to the Windows (or Mac) world, but now we are witnessing a revolution from “standard” programs and some specialized tools to a world where every common thing can be done by our smartphones. Sometimes it seems, that the device is smarter than we are!
But can it protect itself from the increasing number of threats?
You’ll find a lot of articles on the Internet which state that security companies exaggerate the need for mobile security and antivirus protection. You’ll read that Google Play and the new security technologies of Android Lollipop are the only things necessary for security. I could post many examples of such (bad) tips, but I don’t want to waste your time or mine.
Do you use only Google Play as your app source?
A common (and wise) security tip is to stick with Google Play for downloading apps. This is good advice despite the fact that we see here in the Avast blog that Google Play fails to detect some apps as malware. Look for our mobile malware senior virus analyst Filip Chytry’s articles. He continuously discovers holes in Google Play security.
However, what if you want apps that have been banned from Google Play? No, I’m not talking about (just) adult apps. Google banned anti-ad apps, for instance. So where is a safe place to get them? The answer is simple: outside of Google Play. The Amazon Appstore for Android is quickly increasing the possibilities.
Do you think that clean apps can’t become bad ones?
Clean apps can become bad ones, and with the new Google Play permission scheme, you may not even notice. This makes updating your apps (another very common and wise hint) an additional complication.
As the apps we love can turn against us, the best tip of all is that you install a mobile security app that helps you know what it being added to your phone. Avast Mobile Security updates its virus database very often to detect the latest threats and allows you to install securely all the apps you love.
This makes you smarter than your smartphone!
Avast is pleased to offer the World’s First Free Business-Grade Security to small and medium-sized businesses.
In a move that will make a difference to the security of local businesses across the USA and the UK, Avast launches Avast for Business—a free, easy to use, cloud-managed security offering that protects small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) from viruses and cyber attacks.
This is the first free information security product built specifically for businesses with cross-platform protection, meaning that it protects both PCs and Macs. It solves a problem that many businesses have: No IT staff, lean IT budgets, lack of know-how, or even any security at all.
“Since 2001 we’ve delivered great, free security products for home users,” said Vince Steckler, Chief Executive Officer of Avast. “We believe the time is right to provide great security that is not only free, but also simple for SMBs to implement and manage. A small business may not view their customer database or online orders at the same level as data of an enterprise. Avast for Business addresses the problem of those businesses using consumer products and not being adequately protected; it gives those enterprises a business-class solution they can grow with.”
Avast for Business is easy for SMB owners to install, configure and manage advanced security solutions with or without the help of a full-time IT manager. Users are able to effortlessly monitor, manage and protect devices anywhere, anytime from Avast’s cloud-management console.
“Anybody can use the interface,” said Kyle Barker of Championship Networks, an Avast partner in North Carolina, USA. “If you’ve ever seen a simple installment of Avast, you’ve seen the interface, you know the controls. Anybody that ever used the small office console already knows every feature that’s in this product. It’s a simple transition.”
From the easy-to-navigate console, users have the ability to configure robust reporting and alerting to easily stay on top of what is happening inside of their environment. Avast for Business features include:
- Free Essential Antivirus protection (File Shield, Web Shield, Mail Shield)
- HTTP and HTTPS Threat Scanning & Integrated Browser Protection
- A Web-based management console that is accessible anywhere, anytime.
- Robust reporting and alerting engine
- Cross-Platform Support including Windows and Mac OSX.
For advanced security requirements, Avast for Business also offers premium services. There are no limits on the number of protected devices, and businesses can activate and deactivate licenses as needed. This allows them to grow comfortably without the concern of overwhelming costs.
“It’s very easy to choose on a month to month basis the number of licenses you want. Any number of licenses can be mixed from free and premium and you can change this on a month to month basis,” said Barker.
Later in 2015, Avast will introduce programs for managed service providers and the reseller channel, to benefit from the power of free. In the spring, Avast will form its first ever partner advisory council in order to bring partners closer to Avast, to discuss features and functions specific to their needs.
Is the convenience of open Wi-Fi worth the risk of identity theft? Most Americans think so.
In a recent survey, we found that only 6% of Americans protect their data by using a virtual private network (VPN) when using public Wi-Fi with their smartphone or tablet. That leaves a whopping 94% unprotected. Why is this?
Do people not know the risks of using unsecured public Wi-Fi?
Is avoiding data overages or the convenience of no password more important than the data on their devices?
Are they not aware that there is protection available?
Are they scared they won’t understand how to use VPN because of the technical sounding name?
The truth about open, public Wi-Fi
The truth is that using unprotected Wi-Fi networks could end up costing you your privacy and identity when you use them without protection like Virtual Private Network (VPN) software. This is because unsecured networks, those are the ones that do not require registration or a password, give cybercrooks easy access to sensitive personal information.
“As mobile cloud storage becomes more popular and the quest for free Wi-Fi continues to grow, open networks that require no passwords place unprotected consumers at great risk of compromising sensitive personal data,” said Jude McColgan, president of mobile at Avast.
“The majority of Americans don’t realize that all the personal information on their mobile devices becomes defenseless over public Wi-Fi if used without protection. These networks create an easy entry point for hackers to attack millions of American consumers on a daily basis.”
Avast can protect you and it’s not hard or expensive
“Unfortunately hacking isn’t a complicated process – there are tools available online that anyone can easily use to steal personal data,” says Ondrej Vlček, Chief Operating Officer at Avast. “Avast SecureLine VPN allows users to browse the web anonymously and safely, especially while using open Wi-Fi.”
Avast SecureLine VPN protects your Internet connections with military-grade encryption and hides your IP address. If that sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, what it means is that essentially our VPN protection makes your device invisible to cybercriminals. In addition to that, using the VPN hides your browsing history, so no one can monitor your behavior online. We assure you, it’s as easy as can be to use.
Just because logging in with your finger is convenient doesn’t mean it’s the best method to use.
Some days ago we told you about increasing your security on sites and in services by using two-factor authentication. More and more services are using this two-factor log in method. They require that you use “something you know” like a PIN or a password, “something you have” like a token app in your smartphone, and even “something you are” like your fingerprints, for instance.
Many top smartphones – starting with iPhone 5s and newer Androids – are moving to fingerprint authentication technology. That means you can unlock your phone using your finger. It’s more convenient than typing a PIN or password because you always have your finger with you (we hope!). And you would think that it is more secure than using a gesture or pattern to unlock it.
Unfortunately, it’s not. Here’s why:
The authentication process requires that a site or a service (or your smartphone) could recognize you for a thing you know: A PIN or a password. This information must be stored in the service server (or hardware) and it must be matched, i.e., the combination of two pieces (generally username and password) must match to allow access to the right person.
Both you and the service must know this secret combination. But that’s the problem; nowadays, a lot of sites and services have been compromised and pairs of username/passwords have been hacked and sold on the black market.
But what about using your fingerprint? It’s the same scenario. The information about your finger and the technology to match your fingerprint is stored in servers. If they are hacked, your exact, and only, information would be in their hands.
It gets worse.
You can change your credentials to log into a site or service, but you can’t just change your finger! Well, most of us have 9 more chances after the first one is compromised, but still - there are more than just 10 services you want to use. You can change your passwords indefinitely, you can use a stronger password, you can use a password generation service - you’ve got the idea… But you don’t have that many choices with your fingerprint.
It gets even worse.
Everything you touch reveals you. You’re publishing your own secret.
Can you imagine banks or stores letting you use your fingerprint to gain access to your account without even a card? Coincidentally, just hours ago a news report was published saying the Royal Bank of Scotland and MasterCard recently made announcements regarding fingerprint authentication services. They announced that customers can log into the banks’ mobile banking app using their fingerprint. It’s interesting that this article says 16- to 24- years olds are driving this decision because
they want to avoid security slowing down the process of making a payment, with 64% of those surveyed saying they found existing security irritating.
This decision by major banks does not give us confidence in the security of the younger generation and their bank accounts. We venture to wonder about the police with their databases full of prints. What could be done with millions of fingerprints stored by the government?
By the end of last year, young researchers from the Chaos Computer Club showed that your fingerprints could be obtained by photos of your hands and from anything you touched. See the full presentation in this YouTube video. If you have the curiosity to see all the video, you’ll see that using your iris could also be simulated with high quality printed photos. At 30:40 starts the iPhone fingerprint hacking. They took 2 days to develop the method and presented it in a few minutes. Amazing and scary.
Here’s another video with a quick summary of the research.
How to make yourself and your phone more secure
This blog is a source of great information. Earlier this month, we shared 14 easy things you can do right now to make your devices more secure. Please read 14 easy tips to protect your smartphones and tablets – Part I and Part II.
As always, make sure your Android device is protected with Avast Mobile Security. Install Avast Mobile Security and Antivirus from the Google Play store, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Avast.android.mobilesecurity
Android Malware Xbot Spies on Text Messages
In the past few weeks, the Avast Mobile Security analysts have been focusing on Android malware which targets users in Russia and Eastern Europe. One of the families that caught our interest was the Xbot malware.
The name Xbot comes from the sample itself as the string Xbot was found in all variants of this malware. Xbot uses a variety of names and package names but this string was, with different levels of obfuscation, in every single file we analyzed so we decided to name the malware after it.
Xbot is not an app itself, but is included in different apps. We didn’t identify it in apps available on Google Play, but on local Russian markets like www.apk-server12.ru. Users in Eastern Europe use markets other than Google Play more than West European and U.S. users do, that might be one of the reasons why the cybercriminals chose this distribution channel. Xbot tries to hide behind apps that look like legit apps, like Google Play or the Opera Browser. It collects tons of permissions which allows it to spy on user’s SMS and the malware could potentially spy on people’s phone calls in the future, too. It also sends premium SMS behind the user’s back, so basically it is malicious through-and-through.
From the beginning of February we have seen 353 Unique Files with more than 2570 Unique Install GUIDs. These numbers are not the highest ones we’ve ever seen but still, it allows us, unfortunately, to see the potential of Android malware and social engineering.
The author hides a message
One interesting thing we discovered is that the malware author is not shy about expressing his anger with the antivirus companies who detect his masterpiece. Sometimes we find embedded messages addressed to Malware analytics. This one is quite strong. See if you can spot it: //9new StringBuilder (“FUCK_U_AV” )).append(“1″).toString();. Messages like this are nothing new in malware samples because security companies like Avast can really cut into the bad guys’ income from this type of malware.
The author tries to cover his tracks
As a part of anti-analysis protection, the author(s) try to obfuscate these samples to make them harder to read. But this protection is fairly simple, as it usually consists of adding additional junk characters which are excluded at runtime or the Proguard, which mangles the method names and file structure. Read more…