Avast simplifies how you protect your privacy with new products for 2016.
Count the number of devices you own. If you are like most modern digital-age people, you have a smartphone, half of you own a tablet, and most all of us have a desktop or laptop computer connected through a home router.
Now think about all the private information that you have on those devices. Bank account numbers, passwords, photos, messages and emails – all of them needing some form of protection to stay out of the wrong hands.
In a survey we did this year, 69% of you told us that your biggest fear is that the wrong person would see your personal information. In fact, Americans are so scared of having their financial information get into a bad guy’s possession, that 74% said they’d rather have nude photos of themselves leaked on the Internet! The problem is that most people are not doing anything to protect their privacy, for example, 40% of Americans don’t even lock their smartphones.
“While people are rightfully concerned about privacy, there is a disconnect between that concern and the steps they take to protect themselves,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive officer of Avast. “Users have a multitude of devices and passwords to keep track of, which can be overwhelming. When users feel overwhelmed, they tend to default to unsafe practices that put their privacy at risk.”
The new Avast 2016 for PC and Mac, the redesigned Avast Mobile Security, and the new kid on the block, Avast SecureMe, will all help reduce the complex task of protecting your private, personal information.
So time to face your fear and take steps to protect yourself. Here’s some tools that Avast is launching today to help you:
Twenty Android mobile phones were intentionally lost in The Lost Phones social experiment that Avast security analysts ran for 5 months.
The story is about how Avast Anti-Theft was able to track the phones and follow the journey that some of them took after being found. But four of those phones were returned to Avast because of good Samaritans who didn’t feel it was right to keep them.
We spoke to two of them; Quiana W., who found a phone on a park bench in Harlem, New York City and to Michael D. who found one in a public restroom in San Francisco. We asked what they thought when they first spotted the phones.
Quiana: I wanted to check it to see if it was on and see if I would be able to contact someone to return their phone. I know what it feels like to lose things, wallet or a phone, so I was just trying to pay it forward. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen back to me in this way, but it was just something that kind of took my heart.
Michael: My initial reaction was to leave the phone where it was. It seemed a little suspicious – how could someone not hear the phone drop onto the floor? I also thought that someone might mistake me for a thief if I walked out with the phone. But then, partially out of boredom and partially out of honesty, I decided to play detective and find the phone’s owner.
We trust our free app Avast Anti-Theft to track down lost phones, but we wanted to put it to the test in a real-world situation. So five months ago, we bought 20 Android smartphones and installed three security apps on all the phones: Our free Avast Anti-Theft app, Lookout Mobile Security, and Clean Master. Each phone was marked with contact information on where to return the device if found. After all was prepared, Avast security analysts traveled to New York City and San Francisco to randomly “lose” them in public places.
Here’s a video that shows what happened.
Over the months, the analysts used the Avast Anti-Theft app to track the lost devices and observed the following:
- 15 phones were wiped clean using the factory reset feature
- 11 phones stayed online for more than 24 hours after losing them
- 7 phones we were able to track for several months
- 4 phones were returned
- 4 phones are currently online and used
- 2 phones ended up abroad
- 1 phone was never factory data reset
The majority of lost devices were wiped clean using the factory reset feature, but only the Avast Anti-Theft app survived the factory reset.
You can track your missing mobile phones and tablets with Avast Anti-Theft. Get it for free from the Google Play Store.
That’s what we wanted to find out.
Avast security analysts ran a five-month experiment to “lose” and track 20 mobile phones.
To prepare the phones for the experiment, they activated three security apps: Our own free Avast Anti-Theft, Lookout Mobile Security, and Clean Master. They made sure that each phone was marked with contact information so it could be returned if found. Then, they randomly placed 10 phones around New York City and the other 10 around San Francisco.
It didn’t take long for the phones to be found and tampered with. Fifteen of the 20 phones were wiped clean using the factory reset feature. They only security app that survived the factory reset was Avast Anti-Theft.
That was just what our analysts needed to track the lost devices on their adventures.
And what adventures they had!
On a slow boat to…India?!
One of the phones, lost in Battery Park, New York City, eventually found its way to Mumbai, India. At first, a long, slow journey across the Atlantic Ocean had our analysts baffled, until they theorized that the phone was aboard a transatlantic cargo ship. Read more…
If you found a USB stick, would you plug it into your laptop to see what’s on it?
Sounds like a risky thing to do, but in a recent experiment in four major U.S. cities, that’s exactly what happened when 200 unbranded USB devices were left in public places. One in five people let their curiosity get the best of them and plugged the flash drive into a device. These “Nosy Nellys” proceeded to open text files, click on unfamiliar web links, or send messages to a listed email address. All potentially risky behaviors!
“These actions may seem innocuous, but each has the potential to open the door to the very real threat of becoming the victim of a hacker or a cybercriminal,” said Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) the trade association that commissioned the experiment.
Every time you plug an unknown flash drive into your computer, you’re taking a risk because a USB drive can spread malware, as well as attract it. Here are some dramatic examples:
Stuxnet and Flame were spread by USB device
The infamous Stuxnet worm and Flame malware, alleged American-Israeli cyber weapons designed to attack and spy on Iran’s nuclear program, relied on USB sticks to disseminate attack code to Windows machines.
Americans don’t trust that technology will be kept out of the hands of bad guys.
Forget about zombies, vampires, and ghosts. Americans don’t fear things that go bump-in-the-night as much as they do their own government. The annual Survey of Fear conducted by Chapman University asked Americans about their level of fear in 88 different topics ranging from crime, the government, disasters, personal anxieties, technology, and others. The majority of Americans said that they are “afraid” or “very afraid” of the corruption of government officials.
The misuse of technology, financial crime, and privacy-related issues took up half of the Top 10 fears of 2015. After two years of high-profile data breaches and the revelations of government spying from the Edward Snowden leaks, it’s not too surprising. Here’s the list:
- Corruption of government officials (58.0%)
- Cyber-terrorism (44.8%)
- Corporate tracking of personal information (44.6%)
- Terrorist attacks (44.4%)
- Government tracking of personal information (41.4%)
- Bio-warfare (40.9%)
- Identity theft (39.6%)
- Economic collapse (39.2%)
- Running out of money in the future (37.4%)
- Credit card fraud (36.9%)
Does your Chrome browser seem a little “off”, but you can’t figure out why? Maybe it’s eFast.
Here’s another reason to slow down when installing software, especially free software. A new Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) disguised as the Google Chrome browser is sneaking onto users computers bundled with legitimate software, hidden deep within the ‘Custom’ or ‘Advanced’ settings that most people skip over. Once installed, eFast, as it has been called, serves up ads and tracks your online activities and sells personally identifiable information to advertisers.
“Read the installer screens to make sure what they actually install,” warns Michal Salat, researcher in the Avast Virus Lab. ” The Next->Next->Next->Done approach is exactly why we deal with PUPs daily. If there isn’t an option not to install some additional software, terminate the installer immediately. Better safe then sorry.”
Researchers at Malwarebytes says that eFast actually installs a new browser rather than hijacking your existing one. If you already have Chrome installed, it will replace it making itself the default browser. The fake browser uses the same source code for the user interface as the real thing making it difficult to tell the difference. It is so tricky that it even replaces shortcuts on your desktop that look similar to Google Chrome.
“We want to keep our clients and servers in a secure environment.”
Business owners in every part of the world have the same concerns. Scott Quinn from Montana-based Caritas Design, a small web-design firm run by Scott and his wife Kate, said, “There are lots of viruses out there you need to be protected from. In today’s world we have to protect personal information.”
Echoing that sentiment from clear across the globe is Levent Sılay, a business development executive from Login Business Solutions, a Management Information Systems solution provider based in Istanbul, Turkey. He says their biggest concern is, “to keep our clients and servers in a secure environment.”
Cobbling together a security solution
Both businessmen have tried different solutions in order to create that secure environment. But as many smaller businesses have experienced, the setup was disorganized with people in the company using different solutions simultaneously like McAfee, Symantec, Microsoft Security Essentials, and F-Secure. This cobbling together of security programs meant that management was difficult and disordered. In evaluating better solutions, Silay said, “We wanted a security system which can easily be monitored and managed from a web portal.”
Silay was a long time Avast Free Antivirus user, so once he found out about the free Avast for Business option he didn’t turn back. Quinn had a similar experience. He found Avast Free Antivirus when he was a poor college student. “I was in college looking for the cheapest option, and it had to have boot time scan. So through internet searches, I found Avast.”
Free isn’t always the biggest benefit
Many businesses already have a budget set aside for security, so sometimes free software isn’t the main benefit. Both Quinn and Silay had additional needs. The primary one: “Simple management”.
As Google Play tightens their security measures on mobile apps, hackers are moving to third party app stores. Fake apps imitating popular apps were found on the Windows Phone Store earlier this week. Now a new batch of infected Android apps imitating the real deal have been found on unofficial third-party Android app stores.
The new malicious adware, dubbed Kemoge, reported Wednesday by security researchers at FireEye, also disguises itself as popular applications. The apps trick the user into installing them through in-app ads and ads promoting the download links via websites. The legitimate appearing apps aggressively display unwanted advertisements which seem annoying, but in the FireEye blog researcher Yulong Zhong writes, ” it soon turns evil.”
The fake apps gain root access and gathers device information such as the phones IMEI, IMSI, and storage information, then sends the data to a remote server.
Infections have been discovered in more than 20 countries, including the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Because of Chinese characters found in the code, it is believed that the malware was written by Chinese developers or controlled by Chinese hackers. The apps included Talking Tom 3, WiFi Enhancer, Assistive Touch, PinkyGirls, and Sex Cademy.
How to protect your Android device from infection
- Only install apps from trusted stores like Google Play
- Avoid clicking on links from ads, SMS, websites, or emails
- Keep your device and apps up up-to-date
- Install protection that scans apps like Avast Mobile Security
Avast Free Antivirus just received another AV-Test certification for its stellar protection against real-world threats, performance in daily use, and usability.
Yay! It’s like collecting another trophy for the display case or another blue ribbon to hang on the wall, but what does it really mean? How is this type of testing useful for you, our customers?
Ondrej Vlcek, Avast’s Chief Operations Officer explains,
Because of the overwhelming growth of malware targeting consumers and businesses, labs like AV-Test Institute have become an invaluable independent source of data to Avast. Their research has influenced our engineers to expand their knowledge of malware, revolutionize diagnostic and detection methods, and facilitate strategies to get real-time updates to hundreds of millions of people who put their trust in our antivirus products.”
Here’s a little background on the testing lab.
AV-Test Institute is an independent lab designed specifically for testing and researching malware. Located in Magdeburg, Germany, they inhabit 1200m² (12,900 ft²) of space with 3 server rooms and a variety of main and secondary laboratories.