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July 23rd, 2015

Microsoft releases emergency Windows patch after discovery of critical security flaw

With the release of their newest operating system just days away, now is not the most convenient time for Microsoft to be facing and dealing with security bugs. However, two thirds of all 1.5 billion PCs operated by Windows across the globe were recently left vulnerable due to a security flaw found in nearly every version of Windows, including Windows 10 Insider Preview.

If you use Windows, the time to update is now!

If you use Windows, the time to update is now!

The flaw (MS15-078) lies within the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library and can be exploited by cybercriminals to hijack PCs and/or infect them with malware. Users can be attacked when they visit untrusted websites that contain malicious embedded OpenType fonts. Microsoft explains more about the threat in a security bulletin advisory:

An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of the affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.

There are multiple ways an attacker could exploit this vulnerability, such as by convincing a user to open a specially crafted document, or by convincing a user to visit an untrusted webpage that contains embedded OpenType fonts. The update addresses the vulnerability by correcting how the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library handles OpenType fonts.

The flaw has been classified as critical, which is Microsoft’s highest measured level of threat. Anyone running Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1, Server 2008, Server 2012 and Windows RT are affected by the flaw. Microsoft’s online Security TechCenter includes a full list of affected software and additional vulnerability information.

Read more…

July 22nd, 2015

Windows 10 security features consumers can look forward to

Windows 10 will be launching in T-minus seven days and will be offered for free within its first year of availability to Windows 7 and 8 users. Not only will the beloved Start button be back in Windows 10, but Windows 10 will also include a personal assistant, Cortana. What’s more, the new operating system will introduce many promising security features and a new browser.

Image: TechRadar

Image: TechRadar

Hello there, Windows Hello and Passport!

Windows Hello is biometric authentication that either scans your face, iris or fingerprint to access your Windows 10 device – very secret agent-like security! By doing so, Windows Hello eliminates the chance of hackers stealing your password to access your device, simply because you will no longer have a password to begin with!

Windows Passport also eliminates the use of passwords to access your online accounts. For now, Microsoft will work with the Azure Active Directory and has joined the FIDO alliance to subsequently support password replacement for other consumer, financial and security services. Windows will verify that you are truly the one using your device through a PIN or via Windows Hello, and then it will authenticate Windows Passport so you can log in to websites and services without ever using a password. Combined use of Windows Hello and Windows Passport would mean that a hacker would not only have to physically steal your device, but also kidnap you to access your accounts.

You will, of course, need hardware that is capable of infrared scanning your face or iris, or that has a built-in fingerprint reader to use Windows Hello. Microsoft has already confirmed that all OEM systems with Intel® RealSense™ 3D Camera (F200) will support Windows Hello’s facial unlock features.

Read more…

July 20th, 2015

GrimeFighter is now Avast Cleanup

Optimize your PC with Avast Cleanup’s advanced scanning features.

Change is good, especially when it pushes us forward and encourages us to improve. We’ve recently made a change that will benefit our users and make their experience using our products even better. Our PC optimization product formerly known as GrimeFighter has now emerged as Avast Cleanup. In addition to the name change, there’s more to this transition that Avast users can be excited about. In Avast Cleanup, we’ve got a bunch of great benefits for you to enjoy:

  • Rid your PC of up to 5x more junk. Avast Cleanup continues to search for junk files, unnecessary app processes and system settings that slow down your PC’s performance. The amount of issues detected by Avast Cleanup have been improved fivefold, ensuring that your PC is cleaned as thoroughly as possible.
  • Keep it clean, keep it fast. Avast Cleanup’s quick and easy scan is 10x faster, now capable of transforming your PC in minutes or even seconds. As always, exact scan times may vary due to Internet connection or amount of issues found.
  • Win precious space back with new, advanced scanning features. Even a new PC can be loaded with unnecessary apps. Avast Cleanup checks when you update a program or uninstall an app, ensuring that any unnecessary leftover files don’t take up space on your PC. Since you’re immediately informed if unneeded files are discovered, you can save more space on your device than ever before.
  • Organize Avast Cleanup to work around your agenda. You can schedule a daily clean, select which programs you want to load upon startup, and choose what you clean in a scan. What’s more, Avast Cleanup discreetly runs in the background while you go about your daily activities.

Avast Cleanup helps you store more of what you actually want and to accomplish it in just a few minutes. Don’t let your PC become a test of your patience — try Cleanup for yourself. Here’s how:

  • For licensed users, all you need to do is install the latest version of Avast. Your GrimeFighter will then be automatically updated to Avast Cleanup. You’ll receive a notification letting you know that the update was successful.
  • For users who have updated to the latest Avast version but haven’t yet purchased Avast Cleanup, you can do so either from our website or, better yet, directly through the program by navigating to the store link on left menu of the interface.
  • For users who haven’t updated, you can also buy Cleanup within Avast. For now, you’ll still see it as GrimeFighter and you’ll need to do an update to the latest version of Avast in order for it to work.
July 7th, 2015

Avast Browser Cleanup removes unwanted browser add-ons

Most Internet users are familiar with this problem all too well: After downloading a video player, Java, Flash updates or other software, the browser has suddenly changed. New buttons and icons in all colors and sizes along with an URL entry bar take up valuable real estate on your browser. The browser runs noticeably slower – and the results look different. Most annoying is that the advertising becomes more prominent.

Our free utility gets rid of annoying toolbars and restores hijacked searches.

Over the past two years, Avast Browser Cleanup has identified more than 60 million different browser add-ons which are often bundled with other free software, such as video players, Java and Flash updates. These toolbars typically occupy the horizontal space below a user’s browser and can include buttons, icons, and menus. Despite removing and re-installing a browser, toolbars will often remain, which is a behavior similar to malware.

Read more…

July 3rd, 2015

CryptoWall joins forces with click fraud botnet to infect individuals and businesses alike

Newest CryptoWall variant enters systems through a click fraud botnet.

Newest CryptoWall variant enters systems through a click fraud botnet.

Earlier this year, we told you about the return of CryptoWall, malware that encrypts certain files in your computer and, once activated, demands a fine around $500 as a ransom to provide the decryption key. These kinds of financial fraud schemes target both individuals and businesses, are usually very successful and have a significant impact on victims. The problem begins when the victim clicks on an infected advertisement, email, or attachment, or visits an infected website.

Recently, a click fraud botnet with ties to CryptoWall has been discovered. The malware, nicknamed ‘RuthlessTreeMafia‘, has been being used to distribute CryptoWall ransomware. What first appears as an attempt to redirect user traffic to a search engine quickly mutates into an alarming threat as infected systems begin to download CryptoWall and system files and data become encrypted, rendering them useless by their owners. Click fraud and ransomware are two types of crimeware that are usually quite different from one another and typically don’t have many opportunities to join forces; therefore, the result of this unlikely yet powerful collaboration can be detrimental to its victims.

Read more…

June 17th, 2015

iCloud celebrity photo hack: What’s happening?!

Via: Huffington Post

Just about a year after a plethora of celebrities’ nude photos were leaked online, two homes in south Chicago have been raided and investigators have named one of the suspected hackers. As this controversial story and investigation continues to unfold, Avast researchers have come up with a few speculations regarding the origin and motivation behind the initial hack. We’ve discussed the case with one of Avast’s security researchers, Filip Chytry, who has put in his two cents about the situation:

GR: Why might have Apple not flagged or investigated an IP address’ 572 iCloud logins and attempted password resets?

FC: “Putting it simply, Apple just doesn’t have security implemented on this level. Even though they might sound large to us, attempting to track this number of logins and attempts to reset passwords is similar to discovering a needle in a haystack when it comes to Apple’s ecosystem.  Read more…

June 3rd, 2015

Latest versions of Avast compatible with Windows 10

Image via TechRadar

The future of Windows is just around the corner. (Image via TechRadar)

Earlier this week, Microsoft confirmed that the Windows 10 official launch date will be on July 29 and will be available as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users (for one year). This latest OS will be available to pre-order in the upcoming weeks when it launches in 190 different markets across the globe. In anticipation of Microsoft’s exciting new OS, this Techradar article takes a brief look at the operating system’s past:

With Windows 8 and today Windows 8.1, Microsoft tried – not entirely successfully – to deliver an operating system (OS) that could handle the needs of not only number-crunching workstations and high-end gaming rigs, but touch-controlled systems from all-in-one PCs for the family and thin-and-light notebooks down to slender tablets.

Now, Windows 10 has emerged as an operating system optimized for PCs, tablets and phones in unique ways – a truly innovative move from Microsoft’s side. Its big reveal is now quickly approaching, and tech enthusiasts everywhere are curious to see how this OS will measure up.

Will Avast be compatible with Windows 10?

Read more…

May 28th, 2015

The Internet of Things (to be hacked?)

The Jetsons (via philosophymatters.org)

Soon, we’ll be living like The Jetsons (image via philosophymatters.org)

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.

Read more…

May 21st, 2015

Avast Home Network Security is ideal for the self-employed

Don't let your router be the weakest link when it comes to protecting your home business.

Don’t let your router be the weakest link when it comes to protecting your home business.

For those of us who are self-employed and/or work from home, our houses are sacred spaces on both personal and professional levels. Although often overlooked, our routers hold the key to our productivity, as they provide the powerful and consistent network connection that we depend on in order to get our work done. Unfortunately, we often take these little guys for granted, and because of this, routers have become the weakest security point in many home and small business networks these days.

“Unsecured routers create an easy entry point for hackers to attack millions of American home networks,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive officer of Avast. “If a router is not properly secured, cybercriminals can easily gain access to an individual’s personal information, including financial information, user names and passwords, photos, and browsing history.”

 

Read more…

February 18th, 2015

Is logging into your smartphone, websites, or apps with a fingerprint secure?

Fingerprint authentication

Fingerprint authentication is not as safe as you would think

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