Over time, we’ve noticed the presence of some fairly heated user debates disputing the necessity of security or antivirus apps for Android devices. This could have been sparked by our recent post which argues that you can’t always rely on the security of Google Play or because of the myth that antivirus companies create viruses to sell more software.
Certain security gurus claim that if users stick to downloading and purchasing apps using only the Google Play Store, nothing bad will happen to their devices. However, we found that this line of thinking is not 100% correct, as was demonstrated through the discovery of a rogue Dubsmash app or in the infamous case of apps on Google Play posing as games and infecting millions of users with adware. Despite these findings, there are some users who still feel that they’re safe whenever using Google Play. This feeling of false security could have negative consequences; for example, when your data or financial information is stolen or when you have to resort to resetting your device in order to cleanse it of malware.
So, we know we can’t rely on the Google Play Store all the time, but are third-party stores more secure? Of course not. In this case, how is it still possible that it’s not a problem to use third-party stores? First of all, it’s necessary to point out that there are certain legitimate and clean third-party stores, such as Amazon and FDroid. At the same time, there are tons of shady stores and even more black market .apk files promising to deliver you the latest features of a cracked app.
We rely on our apps. Everyday we use our favorite ones to check news, the weather for our next trip, and communicate with our loved ones. Some apps, especially the system ones, are continuously in use, even if they are not the foremost app on your screen. The keyboard is one of them.
Recently, a dangerous vulnerability was discovered in the most popular keyboard, SwiftKey. If you have a Samsung S6, S5, and even a S4 running the stock operating system, you’re at risk. The app always checks for language updates, but this process is not performed in a secure way. If you’re connected with an open or public Wi-Fi, your phone is at risk of a very common and dangerous Man-in-the-middle attack. Your connection will be compromised and all the Internet traffic could be eavesdropped upon. That includes the passwords you’re typing in the very same keyboard, your financial information, everything.
To insure your security, you need to use a VPN when on Wi-Fi, since that’s when most updates are scheduled to occur. You probably already know what a VPN is and how it works. If not, you can find a lot of information in our blog. Our product, Avast SecureLine VPN, creates an encrypted tunnel for the inbound and outbound data of your Internet connection, blocking any possibility of a Man-in-the-middle attack.
But the story does not end here. If you use SwiftKey on an unsecured Wi-Fi, the attacker could also download malware into your phone or tablet. That’s a job for Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus (AMS). Some users think that we don’t need a security product for our phones. They also think that security companies exaggerate the need for a security app just to sell their products. AMS not only scans the installation process of apps but also checks the Internet sites you’re visiting and malicious behavior of any file in your device. You can install Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus on your Android device for free from the Google Play store.
NOTE: At the writing of this post, a patch for the vulnerability was provided to mobile network operators by Samsung. SwiftKey wrote on their blog, “This vulnerability is unrelated to and does not affect our SwiftKey consumer apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store.”
It’s very common to find people concerned about Windows viruses and malware that say, “Oh, my PC is protected by Avast Antivirus, but we don’t need it for our smartphones and tablets.”
With more than 230 million Avast Antivirus customers, we see “only” 60 million or so Android users of Avast Mobile Security. Many more mobile devices are sold every second than desktops and notebooks together. Why are people not as concerned about the security of their smartphone as their desktop?
The AV-Comparatives survey that we wrote about yesterday in Avast Mobile Security is the #1 choice for Android users says that Android users in North America protect their phones more than anywhere else in the world with 31 percent of respondents reporting they have protection. South America, Asia, and Europe are much lower at 17 percent.
What about the rest of the Android users?
- Do you realize that mobile malware is increasing?
- Do you realize that you (most probably) have much more personal info in your smartphone than your PC? Like photos, selfies, contacts, videos, and also banking and financial information.
- What if one of your apps is using your personal info against you like the Dubsmash 2 app we just discovered?
Your Android device needs protection
Avast Mobile Security is a complete suite for Android protection. It is completely focused on security and privacy features.
Maybe you have a friend or your girlfriend that should be reading this… Take this opportunity to introduce them to Avast Mobile Security and teach them some tips about mobile security. Maybe we’ll see a better protected world if we reduce the number of unprotected devices and the cybercrooks have more work to steal from innocents. Download Avast Mobile Security for free on Google Play.
Earn free Avast Mobile Premium
In the latest update of Avast Mobile Security, we added a referral program, so you can recommend Avast Mobile Security to your friends and family. Not only can you recommend the best mobile security app available on Google Play, but you will be rewarded for doing so; you can earn up to three months of Avast Mobile Premium for free!
Here is how it works: For every five friends you send an SMS to recommending Avast, you get one free month of Avast Mobile Premium. Cool, huh?
Do your good action today: Tell someone you care about that smartphones and tablets need to have a security app installed and updated..
Recently we told you about malware inside of Google Play and we also alerted you to the resurrection of Simplocker, a dangerous ransomware that has started its second infection wave. Hopefully, you are convinced that you need to seek a top security application for your Android device. It’s just not safe out there any longer.
However, how can you be sure that our security application is doing its job correctly and extensively?
Some people doubt marketing talk on vendor websites, but we know you cannot start testing every apk file or entering the dark side site of Internet just to see if our solution works. That’s why Avast has chosen to submit our products to third party, independent testing labs.
AV-TEST runs Avast Mobile Security through the paces
AV-TEST is a well-known testing laboratory for mobile security. Recently, they tested 31 mobile security products for Android focusing “on malware detection and usability, including performance and false positives”.
They used 2,950 different malware samples and Avast Mobile Security blocked 100% of them. The malware set was a very recent one: malware in the wild in the last 4 weeks.
Avast Mobile Security did not commit any mistake when tested with 1,932 legitimate apps from the Google Play Store and 981 legitimate apps from third party app stores. The better of the two worlds: protection and usability.
In addition, all this protection, according to AV-TEST, did not “impact the battery life”, or “slow down the device during normal usage”, and “does not generate too much traffic”.
The testing Lab gives a thumbs up for all the other security features that you can find in Avast Mobile Security:
- Anti-Theft for remote lock, wipe and locate your lost or stolen device. NOTE: For those of you who do not have automatic update turned on, please do an update ASAP so you can keep Anti-theft working optimally.
- Call Blocker from specific or unknown numbers and a SMS Filter for unwanted content.
- Safe Browsing that protects against malicious websites and/or phishing.
- Backup for personal data on cloud storage.
- Firewall that allows control over your connection usage over 3G/4G/Wi-Fi/Roaming.
- Network Meter that gives you easy to understand information about your data plans.
Don’t you want to try it? You can download Avast Mobile Security for free on Google Play.
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.