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.
Wi-Fi Security is a feature that is available for Android users within the Avast Mobile Security app as well as within Avast SecureMe for iOS. The feature’s job is to scan Wi-Fi connections and notify you if it finds any security issues including routers with weak passwords, unsecured wireless networks, and routers with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.
While conducting user testing, we found that 22% of Avast Mobile Security users make use of the Wi-Fi Security feature, making it the 2nd most used feature within Avast Mobile Security.
“Avast SecureMe and Avast Mobile Security offer users a simple, one-touch solution to find and choose safe networks to protect themselves from the threat of stolen personal data,” said Jude McColgan.
Wi-Fi Security scan notifies you of any issues that are detected
From all the users who tested the Wi-Fi Security feature, more than 10% of the scans performed returned some kind of problem, such as the use of non-encrypted passwords or a router that is susceptible to security threats. The Wi-Fi Security feature currently performs checks for the following four key elements:
- Non-encrypted, unsecured wireless networks
- Networks with weak encryption
- Weak router passwords
- Routers with known security issues
What’s the risk that my personal data will be stolen?
If you use unsecured Wi-Fi when you log in to a banking site, for example, thieves can capture your log in credentials which can lead to identify theft. On unprotected Wi-Fi networks, thieves can also easily see emails, browsing history, and personal data if you do not use a secure or encrypted connection like a virtual private network (VPN). See our global Wi-Fi hacking experiment to see how widespread the threat really is.
Wi-Fi Security offers two solutions to defend against malware threats
After the Wi-Fi Security feature has scanned your device, you’re presented with two options:
1) Launch Avast SecureLine VPN
2) Click the ‘How to resolve’ button
The first of the two options is meant to be used when you’re connecting to public networks – it’s ideal for cafes, airports, or hotels. On the contrary, users should opt to resolve detected threats if they’re browsing at home using their own devices. When taking this route, you’re redirected to the Avast website in order to set up your router in accordance with our guidelines.
How do I get the Wi-Fi Security feature onto my device?
Avast SecureMe will soon be available in the iTunes Store. Before its widespread release, we will be conducting an invitation-only public beta test. Please sign up here, and the SecureMe team will contact you. If you have already downloaded Avast Mobile Security for Android then you’re all set to start using the Wi-Fi Security feature (you’ll find the “Wi-Fi Security” button on the app’s dashboard). For those yet to download Avast Mobile Security, it is available now from the Play Store.
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.
Avast Battery Saver quickly and easily helps you to save your Android’s battery life
Mobile devices are currently evolving at an exceptional rate. Processor speed, display quality and connectivity options have changed dramatically over the past few years. However, battery capacity still seems to be struggling to keep up with the evolving capacity needed to power the enormous amount of new processors and displays.
According to a recent survey answered by 20, 000 people, 60% of Android owners are not satisfied with their device’s battery life.
There are a huge amount of Android applications trying to solve that problem, yet most of them fail to do so. When examining the features available on these apps, it becomes easy to see why many of them haven’t achieved complete success.
Task-killing is the most popular feature available not only within many battery saving apps, but also within cleaners and phone boosters. It most likely originated in Windows’ desktop operating system. Since users had first become accustomed to closing programs on Windows when their PCs began to slow down, this behavior transferred over to mobile devices when the users began to use Android.
However, Android’s system works differently. Android aims to keep RAM full in order to switch between applications more quickly. If there is no free RAM left, Android kills less recent applications. Thus, there is no need for the user to shut down the apps manually. Furthermore, task-killing actually slows down devices because each time an app is shut down, its data must be loaded to RAM again.
Try it yourself
Here’s a small test that you can try: install a task-killer, RAM booster or battery saving app that “cleans” RAM. Click the main button (it’s usually called “Optimize” or “Boost”). You’ll see several apps killed. Then, wait for a few seconds and try it again. Nothing will happen, as you’ve just killed everything.
Now, uninstall or clear the data in the tested app. After you click the “Optimize” button again, almost all of the apps you’ve just killed are shown to be killed again. Looks strange, huh? It might appear that the “Optimize” button doesn’t do anything. In reality, it does kill applications. The trick is that many apps start directly after being killed using Android’s WakeLock feature. Apps with an “Optimize” button have a timer which prevents users from seeing that killed apps are running again after a few seconds. Because of this, there is no sense in using “Optimize”.
More info about task-killing can be found here:
How can I actually save my device’s battery life?
A couple main factors that contribute to saving battery is turning off certain features of your device including Wi-Fi and mobile data and limiting display brightness and timeout.
Avast now brings you Avast Battery Saver, an application which saves power without hassle. It optimizes phone settings such as Internet connectivity, screen brightness, and timeout according to your needs. Smart power profiles are activated automatically based on time, location, and battery level without sacrificing the activities you love most.
Avast Battery Saver also contains a powerful tool to solve the issue of apps draining your battery’s lifespan while not being used. You have the ability to see how much battery every app is draining and force stop any that you’re not currently using. Unlike task-killing, force-stopping is Android’s native solution to prevent apps from unnecessarily running in the background. Once force-stopped, an app will not run again until it’s next manually opened.
Ready to save? Download Avast Battery Saver for free on Google Play.
Mobile is attractive to cybercrooks
Our mobile phones are fantastic little devices — these days, they’re as powerful and can accomplish nearly all the things a regular computer can. While this is convenient for us, it also gives cybercrooks a relatively easy in-road to your private data and financial information. As 2015 rolls along, consumers continue to become more aware of mobile security options available to them, since they will increasingly use mobile apps that contain sensitive banking, financial, and personal health information.
Last year, more than 1 billion Android devices were shipped out to customers around the world. With Android winning the majority of the smartphone market, it offers a tempting target to malware authors. The average user is not especially concerned about being infected with a virus on their phone or tablet, but unfortunately, mobile malware is more than just a myth. Avast currently has more than one million samples of mobile malware in its database, with 2,850 new mobile threats being created every day by hackers.
Even if you think your chances of being infected with malware are low, we suggest that you go ahead and install a good mobile antivirus software. The great thing about Avast Mobile Security is that it’s free, so your investment is minimal – just a few minutes of setup and you’re ready to go.
Avast Mobile Security includes antivirus protection which scans your apps to see what they are doing, and a Web shield that scans URLs for malware or phishing. Malicious apps allow malware to enter your phone, so it’s good to have Avast on your side to detect when a bad one slips by on Google Play or another app store.
Avast Mobile Security did not commit any mistakes when tested with 1,932 legitimate apps from the Google Play Store and 981 legitimate apps from third party app stores. 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”.
To compare the choices of mobile antivirus software, you can look at the January 2015 “Mobile Security Test” conducted by the independent labs at AV-TEST. They looked at 31 popular Android security apps. Avast Mobile Security tops the list because it detected 100% of malicious apps without any impact on the battery life or slowing down of the device.
AMS Referral Program
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?
There you have it — we’re huge fans of Avast Mobile Security, and we think you will be too. Download Avast Mobile Security for free on Google Play.
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.
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.
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.
When it comes to cybercrime, it’s always better to be in the know. Here are a few ways that web attacks can find their way onto your device. Don’t be fooled — most cybercrooks design attacks to take place where you’d least expect it.
Social engineering preys on human weakness
“A lot of attacks are still using social engineering techniques; phishing emails – ways of convincing the user to give up valuable information,” said Avast CEO Vince Steckler.
In a phishing or spearphishing attack, hackers use email messages to trick people into providing sensitive information, click on links, or download malware. The emails are seemingly sent from organizations or individuals the potential victims would normally get emails from, making them even more deceptive. Last July, Avast took a look at the Tinba Trojan, banking malware that used spearphishing to target its victims.
An example of an injected form from Tinba Trojan targeting U.S. Bank customers.
Web attacks also take place through SMS Text Phishing, also known as SMSishing. This method has become one of the most popular ways in which malicious threats are transmitted on Android devices. These text messages include links that contain malware, and upon clicking them, the malicious program is downloaded to the user’s device. These programs often operate as SMS worms capable of sending messages, removing apps and files, and stealing confidential information from the user.
Malicious apps attempt to fool you
Malicious programs can disguise themselves as real programs by hiding within popular apps or games. In February, we examined malicious apps posing as games on Google Play that infected millions of users with adware. In the case of malicious apps, cybercrooks tamper with the app’s code, inserting additional features and malicious programs that infect devices. As a result, the malware can attempt to use SMSishing in order to collect additional data.
The Durak card game app was the most widespread of the malicious apps with 5 – 10 million installations according to Google Play.
Ransomware uses scare tactics that really work
Another name that made headlines was a group of malware dubbed ransomware, such as CryptoLocker, and its variants Cryptowall, Prison Locker, PowerLocker, and Zerolocker. The most widespread is Cryptolocker, which encrypts data on a computer and demands money from the victim in order to provide the decryption key. Avast detects and protects its users from CryptoLocker and GameoverZeus.
Make sure you back up important files on a regular basis to avoid losing them to ransomware. Ransomware made its way from desktop to Android during the year, and Avast created a Ransomware Removal app to eliminate Android ransomware and unlocks encrypted files for free.
Count on Avast apps to keep mobile malware at bay
To keep your devices protected from other ransomware, make sure to also install Avast Free Mobile Security & Antivirus from the Google Play store. It can detect and remove the malware before it is deployed.
Install Avast Ransomware Removal to find out if your Android devices are infected and to get rid of an infection. Avast Ransomware Removal will tell you if your phone has ransomware on it. If you are infected, it will eliminate the malware. Android users who are clean can use the free app to prevent an infection from happening.Once installed, you can easily launch the app to scan the device, remove the virus, and then decrypt your hijacked files.
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.