Make sure your Android phone is wiped clean before you sell it.
Every day, tens of thousands of people sell or give away their old mobile phones. We decided to buy some of these used phones to test whether they had been wiped clean of their data. What we found was astonishing: 40,000 photos including 750 photos of partially nude women and more than 250 male nude selfies, 750 emails and texts, 250 names and addresses, a collection of anime porn, a complete loan application, and the identity of four of the previous phone owners.
How did we recover so much personal data?
The problem is that people thought they deleted files but the standard features that came with their operating system did not do the job completely. The operating system deleted the corresponding pointers in the file table and marked the space occupied by the file as free. But in reality, the file still existed and remained on the drive.
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.”
Many of the Wi-Fi hotspots you use in your hometown and when you travel have major security flaws making it easy for hackers to see your browsing activity, searches, passwords, videos, emails, and other personal information. It’s a public Wi-Fi connection, meaning that you are sharing the network with lots of strangers. Those strangers can easily watch what you’re doing or steal a username and password to one of your accounts while you sip your latte.
An easy and affordable way to maintain your security whenever you use free Wi-Fi is to use a virtual private network (VPN). It sounds techie, but Avast has made it simple.
A VPN service, like our SecureLine VPN, routes all the data you’re sending and receiving through a private, secure network, even though you’re on a public one. That way, SecureLine makes you 100% anonymous while protecting your activity.
By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected.
–Eric Schmidt, Google chairman
As a rule of thumb, it’s good to keep in mind that anything and everything that can be connected to the Internet can be hacked. Poorly designed or implemented systems could expose serious vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. Now, most of us are fairly familiar with certain gadgets that can be connected to the Internet, such as mobiles devices and/or laptops, smart watches, and cars, but what about the things that are still emerging within the Internet-connected world? Some of these new items include routers, sensors, and everyday gadgets such as alarm clocks, wearables, microwaves, and grills.
A stranger broke into Giri C’s house last September. The thief looked through Giri’s belongings for something of value. He found a MotoE Phone and grabbed it. Mobile phones are an easy target because the thief can just slip in a new SIM card and resell the phone on the black market.
What this thief didn’t know was that Giri had installed Avast Anti-Theft protection. Avast Anti-Theft allows you to set up your desktop account or use a friend’s phone to remotely locate your device, lock it, activate the remote siren, or wipe its data clean.
ASUS, the third largest consumer notebook vendor in the world, has selected Avast Mobile Security to be pre-loaded on its new line of Android powered tablets.
These tablets, called ZenPad, will be debuted at the upcoming Computex in Taiwan this June. The much anticipated 7-inch ZenPad 7 will give customers 12 months of Avast Mobile Security and allow free access to premium versions of Avast Backup and Avast Anti-theft.
Tomáš joined Avast in March 2014 as a Product Manager for Avast Mobile Security. Born in Čáslav, a small town in central Bohemia, he moved to Prague during high school with plans to study at the Police Academy of the Czech Republic. After a while, Tom decided he wanted to study and work in IT instead. After gaining experience while working at a successful Czech startup, taking on jobs as a freelancer and starting his own company focused on cloud document management, Tom joined Avast’s mobile team. In his free time, Tom enjoys climbing, cycling, writing and restoring his classic Škoda 1000 MB car.
1. What is Avast’s mobile team out to accomplish?
We’d like to become the most trusted mobile tools developer, allowing users to live their lives with their mobile devices safely and more easily.
2. Who or what helps you in coming up with new, creative ideas?
My colleagues are a huge inspiration to me. That’s one thing that I really enjoy about working at Avast – anyone and everyone can come up with new ideas to brainstorm. We are one big think tank.
3. What’s one thing that every user should know about his/her mobile device?
Users should be aware of the risks that mobile malware poses to their personal information and data. Although malware on mobile devices is less likely to break a user’s device than that of a PC, malicious apps can harvest and steal a lot of personal data. Even apps that aren’t malicious (often free apps) can access a lot of personal information. The more personal info that is shared, the more likely it is that a user’s privacy could become compromised.
4. What’s your favorite security tip?
Make sure to be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. Packet sniffing, or the monitoring of data traveling over a network, can be used to steal information and is very easy for hackers to carry out. It’s in your best interest to use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to unsecured networks.
5. Name one goal you’ve set for yourself at Avast.
I’d like to see Avast Mobile Security (AMS) become the most popular app that provides users with a straightforward, user-friendly overview of app permissions. AMS is an extremely versatile app with lots of potential, and I envision it serving as a true “guarding angel” for users, protecting them against mobile malware and allowing them to become familiar with the apps they use on a daily basis.
Avast’s mobile team recently held the second Avast Mobile Internal Conference (AMIC) in Prague, where the entire team came together to keep one another in the loop about the company’s apps and products, team activities, and goals for the department’s future. A series of lectures and interactive activities encouraged synergy and collaboration between product teams. In addition to everything that was accomplished at AMIC, the mobile team still managed to have quite a bit of fun at the conference. We’d like to congratulate the mobile department on this successful and productive event!
Small business owners embrace the idea of employees supplying their own computers, smartphones, and tablets in the workplace. But the savings and convenience can go down the drain if the employee falls prey to a phishing scam and downloads malware or loses their device. Protecting mobile devices has become increasingly more important as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) grows in popularity.
Technical security measures to protect information are of obvious importance. However, many security incidents relate to the theft or loss of equipment.
We can write multiple blog posts about BYOD policies and educating your employees about the latest threats and tricks that cybercrooks play (spearphishing, for example), which is all extremely important, but if you simply lose your device, then all bets are off anyway. You can avoid headaches in the case of misplaced or stolen devices by having a way to remotely locate the missing device and wiping the data away if it ends up in the wrong hands.
Avast Anti-Theft allows users to log on to their desktop account or use a friend’s phone to remotely locate their device, lock it, activate the remote siren, or wipe its data clean.
Business owners also need to consider what to do about company data on an employee’s personal device when they are terminated or leave the company. Some companies have resorted to wiping personal devices clean of all data, but that includes contacts, family photos, apps and music, which can lead to unpleasant lawsuits or complaints from former employees. Mobile device management systems (MDMs) are available, but could be overkill for very small businesses.
If you only have a few employees, and do not require a full-blown MDM, then Install Avast Anti-Theft for free from the Google Play store to protect your own devices and those of your employees.
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..