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Archive for the ‘General’ Category
September 11th, 2015

Ads: Love or hate?

Ad-injection is an increasingly annoying and dangerous problem

Ad injecting in action on Amazon

Malvertising attacks. Image via Google Security Blog

There are basically two reactions people have when they see ads in their browser. Some think they add interesting content and possibilities, insights and ideas or even, opportunities. The other group considers them as a distraction, an invasion and a disruption to what they were doing.

But most everyone will agree, once you begin something on your laptop or mobile, especially if it’s work-related task, you want to continue what you started. Lots of people get so into what they’re doing that they don’t see or think of anything else, and when an unwelcome ad comes through, it breaks the concentration. Some will say this is a man’s perspective. But even some women I talk to agree; even though they always say they are multitasking and (cough, cough) never lose focus.

When it comes to security, ads are becoming more and more a vehicle for malware. Ad-injecting malware is really a threat nowadays. Once on your device – computer or mobile – the malware will drop new ads into any (or most) sites you visit, sending ad revenue back to remote cybercriminals. For example, malicious porn ads use this type of redirection and clicking techniques.

Research conducted by Google from June to October of 2014 concluded that deceptive ad injection is a significant problem on the web today.  They identified tens of millions of instances of ad injection and detected 5.3 million different IP addresses infected with adware, 5% of the total testing group. The research also found that Superfish, one of the notorious businesses that have ad injection libraries,  was alive and well, not only pre-installed on Lenovo laptops, but breaking SSL protections for any other computer running it in background.

Ways to control unwanted ads in your browser

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September 9th, 2015

What does the Avast Sandbox do?

The Sandbox is like a hamster ball. It keeps potential troublemakers isolated.

The Sandbox is like a hamster ball. It keeps potential troublemakers isolated.

The Avast Sandbox lets you run a questionable program without risking your computer.

The Avast Sandbox is a special security feature which allows you to run potentially suspicious applications automatically in a completely isolated environment. This is particularly useful if you don’t completely trust whatever you just downloaded or you visit dodgy websites because programs running within the sandbox have limited access to your files and system, so there is no risk to your computer or any of your other files.

Here’s how it works: By default, if an application is started and Avast detects anything suspicious, it will automatically run the application in the Sandbox.  The advantage of running an application in the Sandbox is that it allows you to check suspicious applications while remaining completely protected against any malicious actions that an infected application might try to perform.

The browser or other application will then open in a special window, indicating that it is being run inside the Sandbox. When the Sandbox is closed, it will be restored to its original state and any downloaded files or changed browser settings will be automatically deleted.

Avast Sandbox

The sandbox window in Avast Premier.

The Avast Sandbox is part of Avast Premier 2015, Avast Internet Security 2015 and Avast Pro Antivirus 2015.


Follow Avast on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Google+ where we keep you updated on cybersecurity news every day.

September 7th, 2015

Taking a closer look at cracked Ashley Madison passwords

Photo via The Times UK

Photo via The Times UK

People create terrible passwords. As simple as this might sound it unfortunately remains news to millions — if not billions — of individuals who use the Internet. As proof, we’ll take a look at a selection of passwords that were revealed in the Ashley Madison leak.

Regardless of any shortcomings Ashley Madison had in terms of securing their perimeter against breaches, one thing that they did right (to the surprise of many security researchers and disappointment of many black hats) was encrypting their users’ passwords.

The leak contained a database of around 36 million usernames, with bcrypt-hashed passwords. There is no known way to crack all of these passwords before the heat death of the universe, especially assuming that some are truly random, but we can crack the worst ones.

Conveniently, the web is full of known-password lists that anyone can just download. The two we chose for this crack, which are widely available, are the so-called 500 worst passwords of all time (compiled in 2008) and the 14-million-strong password list from the rockyou hack.

Cracking the bcrypt

It should be noted that we did not use the full list of 36 million password hashes from the Ashley Madison leak; we only used the first million. So, that may skew the results towards passwords created near the beginning of the site’s existence, rather than the end. Also, since the system used contains a 6-core CPU and two GTX 970 GPUs, we set the CPU to test the 500 worst list, and the GPUs to test the rockyou list. Because we’re SMRT, we used the same million for both the CPU and GPU cracks, which therefore produced redundant results in our output files. This has the side-effect of being less efficient overall, but allows us to make an apples-to-oranges comparison of the effectiveness of the two password lists, as well as the CPU vs GPU cracking speed.

Before we get into the results, let’s take a quick diversion to explain why this hack was so difficult and only revealed a small number of passwords.

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September 3rd, 2015

Mr. Robot Review: zer0-day.avi

via: USA Networks

The season finale of Mr. Robot left me asking myself many questions. The big question that most of the characters in the show asked themselves as well was: Where is Tyrell?

What exactly happened while Elliot was in Tyrell’s car? Did Tyrell execute the plan to bring down E Corp or did Elliot? Why is Angela now working for E Corp? Who really put that video of Elliot falling from the boardwalk on the James Bond-like sunglasses USB stick? Did Angela really have to go shopping for designer shoes after James Plouffe’s suicide? Does she not own more than one pair of high heels? Who is knocking on Elliot’s door at the end of the episode?

I admit, I initially stopped watching as the credits came, but then I read online that that was a big mistake. There is a scene that comes after the credits, which, of course, left me asking myself two more questions: Why is White Rose meeting with the CEO of E Corp? Does E Corp really know that Elliot is behind the take down?

However, one very important question that I have been asking myself for the last 15 years was finally answered in this episode. FSociety let the dogs out.

In addition to the numerous plot questions, I had two technical questions after watching the episode. I sat down with senior malware analyst, Jaromir Horejsi, who kindly answered my questions for me.

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September 2nd, 2015

Apple jailbroken phones hit with malware

Chinese jailbroken iPhone users targeted

Chinese jailbroken iPhone users targeted

“Biggest iPhone hack ever” attacks jailbroken phones

In what has been called the biggest iPhone hack ever, 250,000 Apple accounts were hijacked. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that most Apple device users are safe. Why? Because the malware dubbed KeyRaider by researchers at Palo Alto Networks, only infects “jailbroken” iOS devices. (there’s that bad news again)

When you jailbreak a device like an iPhone or iPad, it unlocks the device so you can do more with it like customize the look and ringtones, install apps the Apple normally would not allow, and even switch carriers!

The KeyRaider malware entered the jailbroken iPhones and iPads via Cydia, a compatible but unauthorized app store, which allows people to download apps that  didn’t meet Apple’s content guidelines onto their devices. The malware intercepts iTunes traffic on the device to steal data like Apple passwords, usernames, and device GUID (“Globally Unique Identifier” which is your ID number similar to your car’s VIN). Users reported that hackers used their stolen Apple accounts to download applications from the official App Store and make in-app purchases without paying. At least one incident of ransomware was reported.

Chinese iPhone users with jailbroken phones where the primary attack target, but researchers also found incidents in 17 other countries including the United States, France, and Russia.

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August 25th, 2015

Technical support phone scams are still going strong

Every day, millions of people get scam phone calls. In the U.S. alone there are more than 86 million scam calls each month.

Consumer phone scammers often use cheap robocalling services; automatic dialers that make thousands of phone calls every minute for a low cost. They hope to catch someone who is not aware of the system or hasn’t heard of phone scams. A recorded message will say you qualify for a special program to lower your credit card interest rate or that something is wrong with your computer. When you press a number to learn more, the scam kicks in. The unfortunate victims are often elderly people, recent immigrants, and young college students.

Elderly people are targeted for phone scams

Elderly people are targeted for phone scams

‘We have detected a virus’

The most popular type of phone scam is the bogus tech support claim. The one that has been around for a few years (also read Don’t be fooled by support scams) involves a caller claiming they are a computer technician employed by Microsoft, McAfee, or even, Avast. They say they have detected a problem, commonly a virus or malware, on your computer and can fix it for a fee – sometimes as high as $450.

Once the frightened consumer agrees, the phone scammer has them download software for remote access. You can imagine what changes a crook can make to computer settings which allows them access later.

Other tactics tech support scammers take include:

  • Enroll their victim in a bogus computer maintenance program
  • Collect credit card information to bill for services
  • Install malware that can steal personally identifiable information like passwords and account numbers

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August 24th, 2015

Dating site users infected with banking Trojan after malvertising attack

A popular dating site and a huge telecommunications company were hit with malvertising.

Hacker at work

Trusted websites can be hit with malvertising

Popular dating site Plenty of Fish (POF) and Australian telco giant Telstra were infected with malicious advertising from late last week over the weekend. The infection came from an ad network serving the advertisements that the websites displayed to their visitors.

Malvertising happens when cybercrooks hack into ad networks and inject malicious code into online advertising. These types of attacks are very dangerous because web users are unaware that anything is wrong and do not have to interact in any way to become infected. Just last week, other trusted sites like and AOL were attacked in the same way. In the Telstra and POF attacks, researchers say that a malicious advertisement redirected site visitors via a Google URL shortener to a website  hosting the Nuclear Exploit kit which infected users with the Tinba Banking Trojan.

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August 20th, 2015

Mr. Robot Review: m1rr0ring.qt

This week’s episode of Mr. Robot continued from where it left off last week, focusing on the show’s characters rather than hacking methods. We see Elliot struggle with himself as he figures out that Mr. Robot is his dad (who died years ago), who he has been imagining in his mind. Meanwhile, Tyrell’s world is crumbling. His wife gave birth to a baby boy, but tells him she does not want to be with him unless he “fixes things”. He then gets fired from E Corp and remains as the prime suspect in Sharon’s murder investigation. It doesn’t look like Tyrell did a very good job of fixing things, if you ask me…

Despite the lack of hacking, I did have a few questions about the final scene of the episode. I spoke with my colleague, senior malware analyst Jaromir Horejsi, who helped me better understand FSociety’s plan.

via: USA Networks - Mr. Robot airs on USA, Wednesdays at 10/9 central

In the last scene of the episode, Tyrell pays Elliot a visit. Tyrell tells Elliot about how he murdered Sharon and how surprisingly good that felt. Elliot then decides to tell Tyrell about his plan to take down E Corp. Elliot explains to him that by encrypting all of E Corp’s files, all of their financial records will be impossible to access as the encryption key will self-delete after the process completes.

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August 20th, 2015

Infected ad networks hit popular websites

Infected ads can be dangerous to your computerIt is frustrating when your antivirus protection stops you from visiting a website that you know and trust, but these days even the most popular websites can fall prey to attacks.

This week security researchers discovered booby-trapped advertisements on popular websites including eBay, The Drudge Report,, and AOL. The ads, some of which can be initiated by a drive-by attack without the user’s knowledge or even any action, infected computers with adware or locked them down with ransomware.

Computer users running older browsers or unpatched software are more likely to get infected with malware just by visiting a website. Avast blocks these infected ads, but to be safe, please use the most updated version. To update your Avast, right-click the Avast Antivirus icon in the systems tray at the bottom-right corner of your desktop. From the menu, select Update.

“This kind of malvertising is a fairly easy way for cybercriminals to deliver adware or another malicious payload. Many websites sell advertising space to ad networks then deliver the targeted ads to your screen,” said Avast Virus Lab researcher Honza Zika. “All Avast users with current virus databases are fully protected against this attack, but those without protection or up-to-date security patches run the risk of being infected with ransomware.”

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August 19th, 2015

ASUS selects Avast SecureLine VPN to offer secure browsing to users

Avast SecureLine VPN anonymizes your browsing and makes your logins, emails, instant messages, and credit card details invisible.

Avast SecureLine VPN anonymizes your browsing and makes your logins, emails, instant messages, and credit card details invisible.

We’re happy to announce that Avast SecureLine VPN will now be preloaded onto ASUS notebooks. Avast SecureLine VPN is now being made available on the company’s popular notebooks worldwide (with the exception of China), making it possible to provide users across the globe with a secure online experience by protecting them from hackers and other vulnerabilities.


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