The Avast bi-weekly wrap-up is a quick summary of what was on the Avast blog for the last two weeks.
Spring has sprung and it’s time to clean the dust and grime away after a long winter. In a departure from our regular security-oriented blog posts, we share 10 spring cleaning tips to combat grime. Don’t forget you can also clean your mobile devices! But you barely have to lift a finger because Avast GrimeFighter Safe Clean will remove the grime from your Android mobile devices with the touch of a button. If only window washing were so easy!
Independent testing lab AV-TEST gave their coveted certification to our popular mobile security application, Avast Mobile Security. If you are still on the fence regarding protecting your Android smartphone then read How to find the best protection for your Android phone? Independent tests.
Many smartphone owners are more worried about losing their device then they are about becoming infected with malware. That’s why we created Avast Anti-Theft. Make sure you have the latest version of our free app so if your phone gets lost, you can track it via your My Avast account or using SMS notifications from your friend’s phone. Turned Android auto-updates off? Manually update Anti-Theft to stay protected. explains how you can use Avast Anti -Theft to recover your lost Android device.
The mobile development team released a handy little app called Avast Battery Saver. This free app from Google Play helps you save some battery power. But not just any app can do it. The blog post Fear and loathing on Google Play: An in-depth look at today’s battery saving and cleaning apps gives us the scoop on apps that promise to save battery life with task cleaning.
How to extend the life of your phone’s battery is a question that we all have when the juice starts running out. The Avast Battery Saver app can help save about 20% but there are other ways to save battery life. We give you the tips and also share the future of smartphone batteries.
The unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot at the local cafe can be bad news if thieves capture your login credentials. Android users with Avast Mobile Security have a built-in feature called Wi-Fi Security that warns them if any issues are detected. We are now seeking iOS beta testers for an app called Avast SecureMe that will include the same type of feature for iPhone users. Check our blog Wi-Fi Security feature foolproofs your network connections both in public and at home and scroll down to the bottom for the beta test sign up link.
Cybercrooks use a variety of attack vectors to reach their victims. Targeted spearphishing attacks use email messages to trick people into providing sensitive information while malicious apps for Android disguise themselves as innocent games. The scary ransomware locks up all your files and demands ransom for the key to unlock it – on both PCs and and mobile devices! Avast keeps you aware of cybercrooks latest tricks in Don’t take the bait: Beware of web attack techniques.
If you have a smartphone, you are basically carrying around a pocket-sized laptop with a built-in camera and phone. Denser electronics have allowed for some powerful features to be built into a small package, but the weak link is the battery that runs it all. Battery energy has yet to match the quick growth of features on electronic devices.
Where does the juice go?
The power it takes to keep the device running all day depends upon what you do as well as your operating system, settings, and network (Wi-Fi, CDMA/GSM, 2G/3G/4G), but battery manufacturers say typical Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries provide up to ten hours talk time and up to 300 hours standby time.
Apps drain the battery. They sit in the background pinging servers, keeping track of where you are, and waiting for signals. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS use power looking for routers and satellites or other Bluetooth devices. The display uses lots of power too, especially at full brightness and if you do graphic-intensive activities like play games.
The environment also has an impact on Li-ion batteries. They suffer from stress when exposed to temperatures above 30°C/86°F. This high heat accelerates capacity loss which cannot be restored. Likewise, cold can decrease electricity flow, making your device sluggish.
When do I need to replace my battery?
Conventional wisdom says you’ll probably need a new phone battery each year. Factors like charge and discharge cycles, exposure to high temperatures, and aging decrease performance over time. Manufacturers say the life of most Li-on range between 300 and 500 cycles. Beyond this lifespan, batteries gradually diminish below 50 percent of the original capacity.
If you notice that your battery depletes rapidly, fails to hold a full charge, or feels abnormally warm then most likely it’s time to replace your phone’s battery.
How to save battery life?
- Use Avast Battery Saver. Our free app from Google Play optimizes phone settings using ‘Smart profiles’ which activate automatically based on time, location, and battery level. This saves up to 20% on one charge.
- Avoid full discharges and charge the battery more often between uses.
- Limit exposure to extreme temperatures, especially heat. Don’t leave your phone in a hot car. Room temperature is best.
- Lower your screen brightness. You can experiment, but usually anywhere above 50% is still readable. Some phones let you set it to auto-adjust.
- Turn off vibrate, ringtones, and the flash on your camera.
- Keep apps updated. The updates often improve battery usage by making the apps more efficient.
- When in areas with no cell coverage, turn the device to airplane mode or even turn it off. Otherwise, the phone will continue to search for a signal and that eats battery.
- Limit graphics-intensive activities like gaming and watching videos.
- Turn off WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS when you don’t need them.
Read more about Avast Battery Saver, Fear and loathing on Google Play: An in-depth look at today’s battery saving and cleaning apps.
The future of smartphone batteries
The race for a safe, cheap, long-lasting, energy-rich battery is on. With electric cars, wearable tech, and the Internet of Things running our households, inventors, scientists and business people are searching for the breakthrough that will change batteries forever. The next-generation of batteries may well be built with silicon-based electrodes, take advantage of the oxygen we breathe to recharge power cells, or be organic.
Just last week, a super-fast (1 minute!) chargeable aluminum-ion battery with a high-charge storage capacity developed at Stanford University was announced. This low cost, durable (it was able to withstand more than 7,500 cycles without any loss of capacity) battery is not ready to be mass produced, but it holds promise.
Until that time comes though, used the Avast Battery Saver free app to extend the life of your phone’s battery.
Notice: Coming updates will affect remote command capabilities in past versions of Avast Anti-Theft. Manually update Anti-Theft to stay protected.
Due to coming changes in push notifications, previous versions of Avast Anti-Theft will no longer be able to receive commands from your my.avast.com account. If your applications are automatically updated from Google Play, it’s not necessary to do anything – you can use Anti-Theft normally. However, if you have automatic updates switched off, please manually update Avast Anti-Theft to the latest version. This will allow you to remotely control your device from your Avast account. Commands sent via SMS will continue to work as usual, as well as any data sent to your Avast account.
How do I use Avast Anti-Theft to recover my lost Android device?
During set-up you were asked to provide one or two friend’s phone numbers. If you haven’t done that step, do so now. The Avast Anti-Theft installation and configuration FAQ shows the steps.
You can use the friend’s phone to receive an Avast Anti-Theft SMS notification in case your device is lost or stolen or to recover the Avast PIN in case you forget it.
Usually the first thing a thief does is change the SIM card. When Anti-Theft detects a SIM change, it will lock the phone and SMS all the details to the friend’s numbers you set up in the app.
As long as you have updated your app, you can track and control your device remotely using SMS commands from your friend’s phone or from your Avast account. All SMS commands begin with your password. For example, if you set 2222 as your password, the lock command would look like this: 2222 LOCK.
You can find all the SMS commands on the Avast Free Mobile Security page.
After a long winter, it’s time to throw open the windows and let the fresh air in. But first, you need to do a good Spring Cleaning to wash away the grime that has accumulated. Here’s our favorite tips that go beyond the ordinary vacuum and dust routine. Choose the ones you want to do, and don’t forget that your mobile devices can use a good cleaning too (see tip #10)!
Starting from the top down:
- 1. Dim light fixtures and dull lamps. See the gleam again from your light fixtures. Get a soft microfiber cloth or duster and wipe away dust from ceiling lights, fans, and table lamps. I even use a vacuum attachment on lamp shades.
- 2. Greasy window treatments. Dirt, dust, grease, and bacteria collect on draperies, blinds, verticals, and shades. It is recommended to have your fabric window treatments dry-cleaned every 5-7 years. For metal or plastic blinds, you can take them down and wash them with dishwashing soap in a bucket of water or a solution of half water, half vinegar. Clean wooden blinds with a soft dry cloth wear a pair of cotton gloves or old socks and wipe the slats down.
- 3. Dusty bookshelves. A dusty old library sounds like a romantic notion, but it’s not good in your own home.Working from the top down, remove books and decorative objects from one shelf at a time, dust and return. Maybe you’ll find some old books that are ready to donate while you’re at it.
You walk by it every day:
- 4. Grimy doors, knobs, and handles. Grubby hands and jumping dogs can make your doors pretty awful looking, but because you are walking in and out, you don’t even see the grime. Give knobs and handles a quick wipe down with your favorite cleaner and some paper towels. Make your front door welcoming again by cleaning it inside and out with warm, soapy water. Dry it with a soft cloth.
How does that get there?!
- 5. Crumby kitchen drawers. I can’t ever figure out how the crumbs get in there; but spring cleaning is a good time to remove everything, wipe out the drawers and return only the items you still use.
- 6. Upholstered furniture. After a season of snuggling on the sofa with the dog and a good movie, stick your hand between the cushion and you’ll find old popcorn and plenty of dirt, sticks and leaves. I even found a dead lizard! Get out the vacuum attachments and vacuum upholstered furniture, including under and between cushions. Fluff and rotate cushions and pillows.
- 7. Underneath the rugs. You’ll be surprised what’s under there, so move the furniture off the rug and vacuum underneath. You may want to take your rug outside and give it a good old-fashioned beating too.
- 8. Underneath beds and behind furniture. Dust bunnies as big as the cat are hidden away, so make an extra effort to get the vacuum way up under there. Allergy sufferers have enough to deal with when the pollen comes, so help them out by minimizing dust.
You will feel cleaner, too. Trust me.
- 9. Scummy shower and tub walls. Soap scum builds up after a season of long, hot showers. Choose your favorite cleaning product and leave it on for at least 10 minutes before scrubbing down the tiles.
This is the easiest one!
- 10. Spring Clean your Mobile Devices. We may not be great at washing windows and cleaning floors, but we know how to Spring Clean you Android device! Over time, unnecessary data, system caches, gallery thumbnails, installation files, and residual files can accumulate on your smartphone and tablet. You can regain performance and speed when you clean away all the grime with our free app, Avast GrimeFighter Safe Clean for Android. Install Avast GrimeFighter free from Google Play.
The Avast biweekly wrap-up is a quick summary of what was on the Avast blog for the last 2 weeks .
March Madness wraps up on April 6th. Even if you are traveling abroad, all you basketball fans can watch the game using a VPN service. Stay safe during March Madness using Avast SecureLine explains why you should always use VPN when connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, plus the added benefit of being able to watch geo-restricted content online.
Speaking of Wi-Fi – Just like in real estate, one of the most important things for your router is location, location, location. 5 things you can do to boost your Wi-Fi network shares helpful things that you can do yourself to make your Wi-Fi signal stronger within your home or business.
I run because I really REALLY like Beer!
Team Avast rocked it at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon.
World Backup Day was a good reminder that we need to take time to prevent data loss on our PCs and mobile phones. We discovered that one of the main reasons that people do not back up their data is because they are lazy.
The family IT expert knows how frustrating it can be to help someone solve a computer problem over the phone. Avast makes it easier with our Remote Assistance service. Now you can Help others with their computer issues using Avast Remote Assistance.
For those of you who like to DIY, you can learn How to use the Avast Virus Chest and what actions you can perform on files inside the chest.
With all the security improvements in browsers and operating systems, some people have questioned whether they still need antivirus protection. The business of malware has changed, but it can still be devastating if you are targeted. COO Ondrek Vlcek explains why Avast is not your father’s antivirus protection.
Avast Remote Assistance gives you access to any other computer with Avast installed.
Do your friends and family always call you when they run into a problem with their computer? Forget driving across town to help them out – if they are also Avast users, you can remotely access their computer.
How to use Avast Remote Assistance
If you are the IT expert, the person in need of help has to request assistance from you. Instruct them to open the Avast user interface. The easiest way to find it, is to go to one of the four tiles on the Overview screen, and click on the small menu icon in the top right corner. A drop-down selection will open. Choose Remote Assistance.
Next, tell them to click the blue Get Assistance button. Avast will generate a code that they need to provide to you. They can transfer the code to you by telephone, email, or chat. Make sure they understand that by sending the code they are granting you remote access to their computer. After you take control, this dialog disappears automatically.
When you receive the code, you will copy it into the box on your Avast’s Remote Assistance screen. Follow the directions to connect. When the connection is established, this dialog disappears and the remote desktop window appears.
To close the connection, press the Alt+Shift+End shortcut.
Today, we celebrate World Backup Day with a reminder of how important it is to back up our data.
Data loss can occur when least expected, and it’s a shame that so many irreplaceable digital memories are lost. For businesses, it can be costly – the kind of costs that can close the doors!
So take the pledge today, and then get busy.
“I solemnly swear to back up my important documents and precious memories on March 31st.”
What is a backup?
A backup is a second (and sometimes third) copy of all your important files — for example, your family photos, home videos, documents and emails. It’s not something you do once a year and forget about; a good backup plan will be continuous and include multiple layers to not only recover your data but also include steps for data preservation.
The rule of thumb for backing up is
- 3 copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important.
- 2 different formats – Example: Dropbox + DVDs or Hard Drive + Memory Stick or CD + Crash Plan, or more
- 1 off-site backup – If the house burns down, how will you get your memories back?
Experts advise that you store two copies of your files in external storage media. That can be a local drive on your computer, an external hard drive, you could print documents, burn a DVD, etc. You can backup important files or your entire computer. Another copy should be kept off-site. Many people use an “online drive” like Drop Box or Google Drive. “Cloud” backups are great for people who want to keep only their most important documents safe because there is usually only a certain amount of storage that’s free.
Don’t forget to back up the data on your mobile devices
Thirty seven percent of respondents we surveyed said they do not back up their data. Don’t wait until your device is lost or destroyed – today is the day to do your first backup!
If you have an Android mobile phone or tablet, install our free Avast Mobile Backup to back up your contacts, call logs, SMS text messages, and other data to your Avast account or Google Drive.
Do I really need security on my computer anymore?
Over the years, web standards have improved and the security of operating systems and browsers have become better. Because of these advances, some people question whether they need security protection at all. But you need to remember that in parallel to positive advances in protection, cybercrooks have improved their skills and become more stealthy and targeted.
Hackers are no longer mischievous kids breaking into government agencies because they can. “These days, cybercrooks have to make business driven-decisions like the rest of us because their resources are limited,” said Ondrek Vlcek, COO of Avast.
Current malware is often disguised as legitimate applications, malicious Android apps sneak by protocols of the huge download sites, and home and business networks are being attacked via weakly protected routers.
“Threats are no longer just targeting devices, but accounts and routers. A recent example is the iCloud hack where cybercrooks stole personal photos of more than 100 celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton,” said Vlcek. “This attack happened via their account and can as well be the result of a router hack. No matter which device you use, all Internet traffic flows through your router so you have to make sure it is secure. You don’t have to be Jennifer Lawrence to be attacked.
Not your father’s antivirus protection
Antivirus protection has come a long way since it scanned individual files. Avast has taken modern virus protection to a high art with real-time updates and heuristic scans that detect new threats it’s never even seen before.
Avast performs so well in protecting against “real-world” threats such as Trojans, worms and viruses as well as web and email threats, that it just received the AV-TEST certification for our home user products.
Avast scored perfectly in the detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the last 4 weeks, and had very little incidence of disruptions caused by false positives. Our consumer products have basically no measurable impact on the performance of the computer while doing things that the average user does on a daily basis: Visiting websites, downloading software, installing and running programs and copying data.
Where you physically place your router makes a difference – not only to the signal, but to your security.
Think of your router like you would a cordless phone’s base. If you wander too far away from the base station, your call may drop or have static interference. If your wireless devices, like your laptop, are out of your router’s range, then your connection speed can slow down to an annoying crawl or your connection may drop.
Generally, a Wi-Fi router should work well for about 100 ft (30m) in every direction. If your walls are thin or your router is placed in the wrong location, you could be helping a thief steal your bandwidth.
Here are 5 things you can do to optimize your reception and reduce the chance of your neighbor piggy backing on your signal:
- 1. Place your router in a central location. For the optimal coverage, place the router in the middle of the desired coverage area. Think about all the devices you are using along with their location, and place the router at a mid-point and as high as possible so the signal gets dispersed throughout the area.
- 2. Avoid walls, ceilings or shelves. If the signal has to go around corners, or through walls, ceilings or shelves, then it will have a hard time getting to your device. Insulated walls, or ones made of brick or concrete can impede the signal. Even fish tanks (it’s the water that’s the problem) and mirrors can have an effect.
- 3. Place appliances far away from the router. Appliances operate on the same frequency as routers, so avoid placing the router close to cordless phones, microwaves, or TVs.
- 4. Name your Wi-Fi something alarming. Follow the trend to rename your Wi-Fi network to something that will potentially scare would-be thieves from mooching off your Wi-Fi connection. The name “FBI Surveillance Van” was popular a few years ago, or use my favorite c:\virus.exe.
- Better yet – set up a password for your network with WPA2 encryption. Read more about securing your router from 12 ways to boost your router’s security.
- 5. Put up Wi-Fi blocking wallpaper. Decorate your room and block your Wi-Fi signal at the same time. MetaPaper is wallpaper that helps businesses and home users improve the security of their data and protect their Wi-Fi networks from intruders. Re-setting your password is definitely cheaper, but this is a clever innovation especially for business owners concerned about their data security.
Avast Home Network Security scans a user’s home network and routers for potential security issues that could allow a hacker attack. The scan looks for misconfigured Wi-Fi networks, exposes weak or default Wi-Fi passwords, vulnerable routers, compromised Internet connections, and enabled, but not protected, IPv6. It also lists all devices on the network so you can make sure only your known devices are connected.
To run a scan on your home network, open the Avast user interface and click on Scan>Scan for network threats. If Avast finds a vulnerability it will guide you on how to fix it.
The Avast Virus Chest is a safe place to store potentially harmful files. These files are completely isolated from the rest of the operating system, meaning that they are not accessible for any outside process or software application. Files cannot be run while stored in the Virus Chest.
How to open the Avast Virus Chest
To open the Virus Chest, right click on Avast’s little orange ball icon in the system tray in the bottom right hand corner of your computer. Select Open Avast user interface from the menu. Another way to open the user interface is to double click the desktop icon.
From the main menu, select Scan, then Scan for viruses, and then click the Quarantine (Virus Chest) button at the bottom of the screen to open the Virus Chest window.
If Avast 2015 detects an infected or suspicious file, it will try to repair it at first. Unfortunately, some files cannot be repaired so Avast will try to move the file to the Virus Chest. If the infected file refuses to move to the Virus Chest, it will be automatically deleted from your computer.
How to set up quick access to the Virus Chest
For quick access to the Virus Chest, you can assign it to one of the four shortcut squares in the Avast user interface. To change which function you see, click on the drop-down menu icon in the top right hand corner of the square. There you will find a choice to place the Virus Chest right on the Overview of your Avast product.
Once you have the shortcut on the user interface, then simply click it to open the Virus Chest.
You can perform different actions while in the Virus Chest
You can perform different actions on the file inside the Virus Chest by right clicking. For example, you can
- Restore a file
- Exclude it from scanning
- Report it to the virus lab
- Delete the file
Once you have made the decision on which action to take, you will be asked to confirm your choice. When you have finished, close the Virus Chest to exit.
NOTE: Exercise extreme caution when restoring a file from the Virus Chest as it may still be infected. This is a high security risk action that requires advanced skills and experience handling infected files to avoid further potential infection of your computer.
How to manually move a file to the Virus Chest
If you need to move a file manually into the Virus Chest, right click anywhere on the contents table on the Virus Chest screen and select Add from the menu. A navigation dialog will open so all you need to do is locate the desired file that you want to move. Then click the Open button. The desired file will then appear in the contents table on the Virus Chest screen.
How to restore files from the Avast Virus Chest
When you open the Virus Chest, you will see a list of files contained within it. Right click on the file that you want to restore and the drop-down menu will appear. Select the Extract option, then select the location to save the file and click OK to close your window.