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!
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
More easy things you can do to secure your smartphone and tablet.
On our blog last week, we shared the first 7 easy security measures to protect your Android devices and the data stored there. But we haven’t finished them. Let’s go a little further.
8. Keep an eye in your phone or, if you can, set Geofencing protection
Don’t put your phone down and go somewhere else. And if you’re having fun in a bar and drinking a beer with friends, have a lucid thought before starting: Turn the Avast Geofencing module on. It’s easy. Open Avast Premium Mobile Security > Anti-Theft > Advanced Settings > Geofencing.
9. Be aware of what permissions apps require
Why should a flashlight app need access to your contacts? Why would a calculator need access to your photos and videos? Shady apps will try to upload your address book and your location to advertising servers or could send premium SMS that will cost you money. You need to pay attention before installing or, at least, uninstall problematic apps. It’s not easy to find a way (if any) to manage permissions in a non-rooted Android phone.
We have written about this before as apps could abuse the permissions requests not only while installing but also on updating. Read more to learn and be cautious: Google Play Store changes opens door to cybercrooks.
10. Keep your device up-to-date
Google can release security updates using their services running in your devices. Developers can do the same via an app update. Allow updates to prevent vulnerabilities, the same as you do in your computer. But pay attention to any changes. See tip #9.
You can encrypt your account, settings, apps and their data, media and other files. Android allows this in its Security settings. Without your lockscreen PIN, password or gesture, nobody will be able to decrypt your data. So, don’t forget your PIN! Nevertheless, this won’t encrypt the data sent or received by your phone. Read the next tip for that.
12. In open/public Wi-Fi, use a VPN to protect your communication
Cybercrooks can have access to all your data in a public, open or free Wi-Fi hotspot at the airport or in a cafe. Avast gives you the ability to protect all inbound and outbound data of your devices with a secure, encrypted and easy-to-use VPN called Avast SecureLine. Learn more about it here.
13. Set the extra features of Lollipop (Android 5)
If you’re with Android Lollipop (v5), you can set a user profile to allow multiple users of the same device. You can create a restricted user profile that will keep your apps from being messed with by your kids or your spouse.
You can also pin the screen and allow other users to only see that particular screen and nothing more. It will prevent your friends and coworkers from accidentally (or on purpose) looking into your device.
14. Backup. Backup. Backup.
Well, our last tip is common digital sense. If everything fails, have a Plan B, and C and D… With Avast Mobile Backup you can protect all your data: contacts, call logs, messages, all your media files (photos, musics and videos) and your apps (with their data if you’re rooted) in safe servers. If your device gets broken, lost or stolen, everything will be there, encrypted and safe, for you to restore to your new device.
Have you followed all our tips? Are you feeling safe? Do you have an extra protection or privacy tip? Please, leave a comment below.
A few precautions can make a huge difference in the safety of your phone and the important things you saved on it.
We talk a lot about protection and privacy here in our blog. It’s a bit obvious as our “life” is in our devices nowadays: Photos of our last trip or our loved ones, videos of our children playing and growing up, contacts both professional and personal. All our precious and irreplaceable data is stored in these little machines. Take a minute of your time and follow us in this easy tour to protect them and save a lot of time and headaches.
1. Set your lockscreen
You wouldn’t leave your home door unlocked, would you? Same goes for your phone with all your private data. Set a password or PIN to prevent direct and easy access to your phone. Gestures and face recognition are less secure, but are better than nothing.
2. Hide your passwords from nosy people
You will argue that people around you can look over your shoulder and see what PIN or password you’re typing or gesture you make. Generally, we’re not worried about trustworthy people around us, but what about strangers in a public place like a bus or train? Open your phone settings and hide your passwords by unchecking the option: Settings > Security > Make passwords visible.
3. Protect your apps with a PIN
Not all apps are equal when it comes to security and privacy. Probably the weather app or calculator won’t keep your personal info. However, your messages and banking apps will thank you if you help them to keep their data private. You can imagine what might happen if your kids to open a specific app while they’re playing in your devices. Use Avast Mobile Security to set a PIN to block access to your apps. As an extra security measure, it will be good that your lockscreen and Avast PINs are different ones.
4. Disable installation of apps from unknown sources
If you do not use other app stores besides Google Play, then uncheck the option “Unknown sources” in your phone’s Security Settings page. Even the Google Play Store sometimes allows malware to get by. It’s well known that most Android malware are fake apps disguised as legitimate apps, so double check the publisher. Be cautious of downloading from fake sites disguised as official ones – check the URL. Avoid completely pirated and cracked sources.
5. Set Avast Mobile Security to scan any app before installing
If you really need to use legal third party stores, like Amazon or F-Droid, please be careful: Keep Avast Mobile Security always on. You know that Avast scans any installed and running app. But do you know that you can set it to scan any app that is about to be installed? After you’ve installed Avast, when you’re about to install a new app, the phone will ask you if you want Avast or the default installer to handle the installation by default. Use Avast, it will scan and then release the app to the default installation process.
6. Disable USB Debugging
This tip is for advanced users. If you have enabled Developer options into your device (and you will know exactly if you did as you’re an advanced user!), please, turn USB debugging off. You will protect your device from outside abuse (via adb connections) if you do so. You don’t need it to be on all the time.
7. Install and set Avast Anti-Theft
This is an old tip, but it’s so important that it should be on all smartphone safety tips lists. Just note that installing is not enough. You need to properly configure Avast Anti-Theft (don’t worry, there is an easy wizard for it) step-by-step. It’s good to check if your location services are properly set also, otherwise, it will be difficult to track it. In other words, go to Settings > Location Access and set High accuracy mode.
We’ll talk about the other 7 tips in next days, so come back to the Avast blog.
Question of the week: I use two-factor authentication when logging into my accounts to keep them safe, but what happens if I lose my phone? Can I still access my accounts?
Security-minded individuals know the benefits of using two-factor authentication to keep their online accounts safe. For those of you who are not familiar with it, two-factor authentication is a security process which uses a combination of two different components, like something that you know, a master password or PIN, for instance, and something that you possess, like a token which can generate a number code or, more conveniently, your smartphone.
Using these two things in combination can provide unique identification when entering a site because you provide the password as well as a one-time use security code generated by your security token. If someone learns your password, your accounts are still protected because they need the security code too. Two-factor authentication can reduce the incidence of identity theft and phishing, and we suggest the use of it.
There are a number of authenticator apps made for Android smartphones. For example, Google Authenticator lets you use a security code and your own password for sites and services like Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, and WordPress. The app creates a link between your account and your device.
I lost my phone. How do I access my accounts?
If you are so security-minded that you use two-factor authentication to begin with, then you have probably taken precautions before you lose your phone. The majority of authenticator services allow a way to recover your access and remove the authorized device from your account. That is, if you change your mobile device, then you can disable the two-factor authentication from your account before doing so. Most commonly, you would use backup codes, send the codes via SMS to a trusted backup phone, or use a trusted computer. Sometimes, the service providers take several business days to verify your identity and, if possible, grant you access again.
But, if you failed to plan ahead and you lose your phone or if you buy a new smartphone without disabling the account, to use two-factor authentication again, you’ll need to install an authenticator app on your new device. The old device and the old backup codes won’t work anymore. Some of the sites you have synced to may also have their own procedure, for example, Dropbox.
Recently, an app is making the use of this security measure much more convenient. Authy is an app that manages your two-factor accounts on Android devices, iPhones, and even your PC. Any of these devices could be used to generate tokens and sync with each other. One authorized device could de-authorize a stolen one. A master password could block the access to Authy in these multiple devices and your settings are all kept encrypted locally. Neither Authy’s developers nor hackers would be able to access the tokens.
Maybe this complex recovery process is what does not make two-factor authentication omnipresent. But, after all, you just need to take a few precautions to increase your security a lot.
Of course, it’s better not to lose your devices and for this, you should install and configure Avast Anti-Theft, which can help you find a lost device and even recover a stolen one with its tracking features. It can be downloaded and used for free from the Google Play Store.
Take these steps to ensure you don’t give away your data when you sell your old smartphone!
You got a new device for Christmas and have finally finished migrating the data and apps from your old one to the new one. Now you’re thinking about what you can do with your old smartphone or tablet, and you come up with two alternatives: Sell it or give it away.
You’ve heard about some sites on the internet where you can sell your phone, so you do some research and decide on a fair price for your used device. Register yourself at the site and… Wait. Something suddenly occurred to you.
Will the new owner be able to see my personal stuff on my old phone?
You’re right to think about that because Tens of thousands of Americans sell themselves online every day. Not only do they sell the devices, they sell themselves as all the personal data could be recovered.
If you don’t want a stranger to see your selfies, discover your bank account details and your credit card numbers, and even some problematic Snapchats and SMSs… you need to do something. Do you remember the celebrities photos scandal?
So what to do? Use a hammer? Well, there are other options.
1. Backup your important data
Much of our lives are stored in our smartphones: Photos, music, videos, personal and professional contacts, call logs and SMSs. And you want all this stuff in your new device, don’t you? Avast Mobile Backup was specially designed to make this easier for you. It makes a backup in your Avast account (or in your Google Drive storage) and then allows you to recover them in a new device: All your paid apps and games (with their data) will be restored.
If you have a MicroSD card, remove it from your device and insert it into your PC, making a full copy and paste operation for all files. Remember that many Android devices store photos and other media files in the DCIM folder of the internal memory. Back it up, too.
The nightmare is back! Your security could be seriously compromised if you do not act now. Install and update your Avast for PC before is too late. The original version of CryptoWall was discovered in November 2013, but a new and improved variant of the CryptoWall ransomware starts to infect computers all over the world last days. It’s the CryptoWall 3.0. Some sources estimate that it has already infected over 700,000 computers up to version 2.0.
CryptoWall is a malware that encrypts certain files in your computer (and secure delete the original ones) and, once activated, demands a fine around $500 as a ransom to provide the decryption key. You’re asked to pay in digital Bitcoins in about 170 hours (almost a full week). After that period, the fee is raised to $1000.
You could be asking why haven’t the authorities blocked the financial funding of them? They use unique wallet ID for each victim into their own TOR anonymity servers. For the user to be able to pay the ransom, he needs to use a TOR-like connection called Web-to-TOR. Each TOR gateway redirects the victim to the same web page with the payment instructions. The commands and communication control is now done using Invisible Internet Project (I2P) instead of Tor.
Infection could reach you in various ways. The most common is as a phishing attack, but it also comes in email attachments and PDF files. The malware kit also abuses various vulnerabilities in unpatched – read non up-to-date – Flash, Java, browsers and other applications to drop the CryptoWall ransomware.
How Avast prevents the infection
1. Avast Antispam and antiphishing protection prevents some vectors distribution.
2. Virus signature block all known ransomwares versions. Remember that Avast automatic streaming updates releases hundreds of daily updates for virus definitions.
3. Community IQ intelligence and sensors of our more than 220 million users that detects malware behavior all over the world. See how it works in this YouTube video.
4. Keeping your software updated is another security measure that prevents the exploit of their vulnerabilities. Learn how Avast Software Updater can help you with this job.
What more can I do?
Avast also helps in prevention of this disaster through its Avast Backup that allows you to keep all your important files in a secure and encrypted way. We also recommend local backup, as the new malware could also attack other drives and even cloud storage. Did you know that Avast Backup also performs local copies of the files? You can enable it at Settings > Options > Local backup, and configure the backup location (better an external drive) and also versioning of the files. Remember to disconnect the external drive from the computer (and the network) to prevent infection of the backups by CryptoWall and further encryption of the files.
We simply need to follow some rules to control and prevent system penetration and also bandwidth theft (and losing money!). Safeguard your valuable information available through your home wireless connection and do not be easy target for hackers!
Here are 12 ways to boost your router’s security:
1. Install your router in a safe place where the wireless signal is available only inside your own house. Avoid placing it near to a window.
2. Turn off WPS, the automated network configuration method that makes your wireless password more vulnerable to hacker attacks.Turn on WPA2 encryption and, if you can, protect it with a strong password.
3. Change the default admin username and password to a strong password. Do not use default passwords because they’re generated from well-known algorithms that makes hacker attacks even easier. Do not use your name, date of birth, home address or any personal information as the password.
4. Upgrade your router firmware to fix known vulnerabilities of the router.
5. Don’t forget to log out after managing the router, avoiding abuse of the authenticated browser sessions.
6. Disable remote management of the router over the internet. In a business environment, if you need this management, it will be safer to use NAT rules allowing SSH or VPN access only.
7. To prevent CSRF attacks, don’t use the default IP ranges. Change the defaults 192.168.1.1 to something different like 10.8.9.7.
8. To prevent ROM-0 abuse of your router (i.e., access to the secret data stored in your router: your ADSL login/password combination and WiFi password), forward port 80 on the router to and non-used IP address on your network. Check how-to here.
9. Set your router DNS servers to automatic mode (or DHCP) or for a static value that you manually set exactly according to your ISP.
10. Disable IPv6 on the router or, if you really need IPv6 services, replace the router with a IPv6 certified one.
11. You can save bandwidth and allow only specific computers or devices to access your WiFi even if they have the security key to enter. Find the computer MAC address (the “physical address” listed with the command line ipconfig/all at a cmd window). Into your router settings, you should look for the Mac filtering settings to add this identifier there.
12. Use a secure VPN in open/public WiFi hotspots. You can read more on how Avast SecureLine can protect PC, Mac and Android devices in these situations. If you cannot avoid using public WiFi, then try not to log in or enter your credentials (specially banking or credit card ones), but also your email and phone number. If you really need it, always prefer the secure protocol HTTPS (check the browser address bar).
After the previous articles you should be convinced that router vulnerabilities are one of the major concerns in network security. As you already know, the new Avast 2015 version includes a security feature called Home Network Security (HNS) which scans your network and router for vulnerabilities and prevent threats.
One serious problem occurs when when IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is enabled (both by the ISP and on the router), but there is no IPv6 firewall being used. Which means that anyone on the Internet can access devices on the network (like printers, network disks, etc.). This is often the case because the routers are small, embedded devices that cannot handle IPv6 firewalling.
The main advantage of IPv6 over IPv4 is its larger address space: it allows 2128 or approximately 3.4×1038 addresses (or sites) which is an enormous number! In addition to offering more addresses, IPv6 also implements features not present in IPv4: it simplifies address assignment, network renumbering and packets processing.
In fact, a proper IPv6 firewall requires quite some processing power and RAM, so it’s no wonder that many of the cheap routers don’t have that functionality at all (or it’s not working properly).
The remediation is relatively simple: Just disable IPv6 on the router. In most cases, this shouldn’t have any impact on other services, unless they require IPv6 (in which case, it would be good to replace the router with something better which is IPv6 certified).
Avast Internet Security and Premium products offer full support to IPv6 for your computer on our silent firewall. Take into account that other devices, like network drives connected to the router won’t be protected.
If your home router is hacked, you have a serious situation on your hands.
When an Avast Home Network Security scan finds that your router is already compromised, this notification will appear.
This means that the router has been hacked and the DNS settings have been modified to serve hacked contents to a cyberthief. This is a pretty serious situation. When hackers exploit router vulnerabilities, gain access to it, and modify the DNS servers settings, all your Internet traffic can be forwarded to rogue servers. This is called a man-in-the-middle attack.
The DNS or Domain Name System, is the “phone book” of the Internet, and an IP address is what’s listed in the book. DNS names computers, services, or any resource connected to the Internet or a private network. It translates easily memorized domain names, for instance, www.example.com, to the unique numerical IP addresses needed to locate the service worldwide.
What happens when your router is hacked?
Instead of connecting to a clean site or service, when your router is hacked, you’ll visit a rogue and hacked one. It’s obvious that your privacy will be violated, and your banking information could be captured – by the man-in-the-middle mentioned above. Even the usually secure SSL, the HTTPS protocol we have all been instructed to look for to indicate a secure site, won’t assure you’re protected. Instead, you’ll be proxied through malicious servers and the encrypted connection is cut in the middle. This illustration shows what happens.
This could also happen if your router is set to default/weak/factory password. So, the worst scenario of hacking is not that uncommon. See the latest news about webcams being hacked because of the owner’s using default passwords. Vincent Steckler, CEO of Avast, told VentureBeat that consumers are notorious for not updating default passwords, just as I’m talking about here. Some 63 percent of wireless routers run with default passwords, says Steckler.
The problem goes further than just one user or one device. The malicious effects can spread to all users in the local network, regardless of the operating system used.
How to protect ourselves against this plague?
First, scan your home network with Avast Home Network Security to verify if your device is compromised. If Avast alerts you, it’s already too late. You’ve already been compromised. You need to manually check the DNS servers in the router configuration.
By default, your router uses DNS servers automatically acquired from your Internet provider. All the devices on your network — PCs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and anything else connected to the network — get their DNS server from the router. You can change the DNS server on your router, therefore changing every other device on your network.
There are several good articles on the Internet about changing your DNS. Here’s one from howtogeek.com.
You also need to pay attention to your browser address bar. The HTTPS indicator should be there all the time. If it comes and goes, you may have already been compromised. In these cases, or for any other strange symptom you could be experiencing: Disable your Internet connection immediately and change the router username and password to unique ones (consult the router manual for instructions).
But, be warned, neither of these will be enough because if the router is vulnerable, it will take the attacker no time to change the settings back. Updating the router firmware or even changing it completely – as described in previous article – will be necessary.