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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
November 11th, 2015

The Anatomy of an IoT Hack

Avast researchers hacked a Vizio Smart TV to gain access to a home network.

Avast researchers hacked a Vizio Smart TV

Hackers could gain access to your home or office network through the Smart TV

Co-authors: Ross Dickey and Riley Seaman 

The Internet is everywhere —  in your TV, your light bulb, and even your refrigerator. We are now living in the world of the Internet of Things. With all of our physical devices connected to the Internet, it’s important to understand how someone might access your information or violate your privacy through these devices. As an example, we’ll walk through hacking a Smart TV with the intention of gaining access to the victim’s home network, as well as to illustrate the privacy implications of having Internet-connected devices in your home or office.

Through this experiment, our aim is to show just how much a regular person can be affected by vulnerabilities within a smart device. Throughout our journey, we went through a series of processes that involved (but were not limited to) a simulated Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack, the injection of an SSID, and the decoding of the device’s binary stream. We dove straight in, making our way through many avenues and curves with the ultimate goal to “crack the salt” (more on that later).

In the end, we found that the smart TV we were inspecting actually broadcasted fingerprints of users’ activities, whether they agreed to the device’s privacy policy and terms of services when first setting it up. In addition, we uncovered a vulnerability within the device that could serve as a potential attack vector for an attacker attempting to access a user’s home network. Since this all sounds pretty creepy, it’s important to note that Vizio successfully resolved these issues upon being notified of our findings. Now, onto the experiment we go:

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August 12th, 2015

Understanding tech companies’ privacy policies and their effect on users

Tech companies’ privacy policies have the ability to help or hinder users.

When was the last time you sat down and read through the entirety of a tech company’s privacy policy, even if you visit the site every day?

In an article recently published by TIME in collaboration with the Center for Plain Language, a selection of the world’s leading and regularly visited tech websites were ranked in a list in relation to their privacy policies. In short, they rated the companies based on the manner in which they communicated with the public while walking them through their privacy policies. In this case, it wasn’t the actual data that these companies collect from current and potential new users that was being analyzed. Instead, this study looked at the way in which that information is brought to the attention of these users.

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August 4th, 2015

Windows Phone Store scam: malicious mobile apps aren’t unique to Google Play

Although it’s possible to use third-party apps stores safely and securely, the fact that scams do still occur in a variety of app stores shouldn’t be ignored. On Sunday, a threat was discovered by a user who posted the issue on our forum. The scam, located within the Windows Phone Store, advertised three fraudulent versions of Avast Mobile Security. These fake apps not only include the Avast logo, but also feature actual screenshots from AMS in their image galleries. Our fast-acting team has since blocked the pages and has labeled them as malicious.

Fake AMS apps collect personal data and redirect users to adware

If downloaded, these fake versions of AMS found on the Windows Phone Store pose a risk to users’ security. Here’s how they work:

  1. New Avast security: This app includes three control buttons which show only advertisements. Even without actively clicking on the ads, the app redirects users to additional adware.
  2. Avast Antivirus Analysis: Claiming to “protect your phone from malware and theft”, this malicious app runs in the background of victims’ devices once downloaded and collects their data and location.
  3. Mobile Security & Antivirus – system 2: Simply put, this is a paid-for version of “New Avast security” that forcibly leads users to adware.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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