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November 6th, 2014

How to turn on WiFi encryption in your router settings

Eavesdropping is a major concern when we talk about the security of home WiFi networks. People around you, your neighbors in the next apartment, or even your own government, can discover anything flowing through your Internet traffic. Your personal data, like passwords and log in credentials, your credit card numbers, and  your photos and videos, are at risk.

Your WiFi network is not secured

Your WiFi network is not secured

We have written a lot about how to protect our communications using a VPN. To summarize, a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is an encrypted tunnel where your data travels from your computer to a secure server on the Internet. Avast SecureLine is a VPN that you can use when outside of your home; at cafes, hotels, or airports.

Get your home network secure

But now, it’s time to bring your attention to your home network security. Your router should be correctly set to achieve the highest level of protection. Until you secure your router, you’re vulnerable to people accessing information on your computer, using your Internet service for free, and potentially using your network to commit cybercrimes.

There are basically three levels of security on a home router. These come in types of encryption. They are WEP, WPA and WPA2. These strange acronyms refer to different wireless encryption protocols which protect – in fact, encrypt – the information you send and receive over a wireless network.

WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was the first protocol used in late 90s. It should not be used nowadays as it has serious security weaknesses which are easily hackable by even the most novice hacker. So, the first wise thing to do is move away from WEP. Your router must be quite old if you can’t do that, and you should consider purchasing an updated one, or ordering a new one from your ISP.

WPA (WiFi Protected Access) replaced WEP, but very soon after that, WPA2 replaced WPA. WPA2 implements the latest security standards, especially for data encryption with AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), a strong encryption algorithm.

Using WPA or, better, the WPA2 protocol, means that when any device tries to establish a connection to your wireless network, it will be prompted to enter the security key or password to connect.

Most wireless routers allow you to select WPA2 during the setup process. Unfortunately, the default in many wireless devices is WEP or, even worse – nothing -  which means anybody in range can connect to your WiFi to use the bandwidth and access your other devices (printer, network disk, etc.).

What to do at home

Avast Home Network Security scans for vulnerabilties.

Avast Home Network Security scans for vulnerabilties.

Verify your wireless network router (or other access point) supports WPA2. If necessary, go to your router manufacturer site and search for the latest firmware to be downloaded and applied according to its instructions. Apply compatible WPA2 settings on each WiFi device, choosing the WPA2 encryption and the correct authentication info.

Although encrypting your traffic won’t protect you from rogues, denial-of-service (DNS) attacks or interference, it will ensure secure wireless communication.

Also, change the default password. Make sure the one you use is long and strong, using a mix of numbers, letters and symbols.

Avast 2015 includes a Home Network Security scanner that can help you determine what needs to be done, explain why, and can direct you to the router manufacturer’s website. Read more about it on our blog,  Your home network is at risk of cybersecurity attacks.

Avast Software’s security applications for PC, Mac, and Android are trusted by more than 200-million people and businesses. Please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

 

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November 4th, 2014

Avast 2015 new feature: Home Network Security scanning

Nowadays, security is team work: Software and hardware should work together to achieve the most complete protection possible.

Avast 2014 Home Network Security

Avast 2015 Home Network Security scans for vulnerabilities in your router.

Complete protection is why the developers at Avast Software decided to include a security feature called Home Network Security (HNS) in the new Avast 2015. HNS is all about scanning your router for vulnerabilities and identifying potential security problems that open the door to threats. Routers are the weakest security point in many home and small business networks these days, so this is a very valid and needed feature.

Here comes the problem. There are zillions of different routers available around the world, but the majority of users just acquire one “that works and is not so expensive” or they get whatever their ISP gives them.  That means the security is already compromised. HNS has been conceived to solve these major threats:

  1. 1. Your wireless network is not secure due to lack of encryption. Thus, anybody in range, like your neighbor, can connect to your Wi-Fi to use the bandwidth and access your other devices (printer, network disk, etc.).
  2. 2. Your network router is accessible from the internet, so hackers can access the router and modify your network settings, even disabling the internet connection or stealing your personal data.
  3. 3. Your router is vulnerable to hacker attacks, i.e., hackers can easily read your router settings, get access to the router, and modify it. Your personal data might be in risk.
  4. 4. Your internet connection is compromised and your router could be hijacked. Your router is already hacked (i.e., some well-known sites are re-directed to fake IPs).
  5. 5. Devices on your network are accessible from internet. This happens when Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6 is enabled on the router and the devices get IPv6 addresses that are not firewalled. The problem is not primarily in the protocol, but in the router, which is not able to secure the devices with these addresses

Avast can help you protect your home network

With Home Network Security  on all  Avast security products, we can translate this into security protection for you. This 7-part series published on the Avast blog this month will show you what to do to enhance your network security and how Avast can guide you through the task.

 

Before we continue, know that there are a lot of free guides available from the major router manufacturers that provide step-by-step information. Take a look, for instance, here. Look for your model and read a bit. Remember, all you learn will work toward protecting your network. You can also download and install a router detector that could help you in this job.

Avast Software’s security applications for PC, Mac, and Android are trusted by more than 200-million people and businesses. Please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

September 11th, 2014

Leave your credit cards at home; Apple Pay lets you buy things with your phone

source: CNET.com

In the wake of the Target, and now Home Depot, security breaches, Apple Pay wants to provide a safer way to make a purchase.

Nestled in-between this week’s announcements of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a new mobile payment system called Apple Pay. New iPhone and Apple Watch owners can leave their credit and debit cards at home because the devices come with a chip that lets them tap-to-pay at major retailers.

When you are in one of 220,000 participating stores, like McDonald’s, Walgreens, Disney, or Macy’s, you use the magic of near-field communication (NFC) to hold your phone by a terminal to pay. It also requires that you place your finger over a sensor to verify your fingerprint. The Apple Watch works the same way, without the added security of the fingerprint, and syncs to your iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s. The payment system will work with American Express, Mastercard, and Visa.

Sounds pretty good. But, Google Wallet, PayPal and other NFC systems have failed to really take off; will Apple give us a better way? I asked mobile malware analyst Filip Chytrý to share his thoughts about the security of Apple Pay.

Deborah: From a security perspective, what do you think about Apple Pay?

Filip: I have some concerns. Communications between your device or watch is through Bluetooth, and we have already seen many incidences of intercepted communication between two devices using a man-in-the-middle attack. Generally, anytime you use a pay system there is communication between the phone or watch over Bluetooth. This communication works over a much longer distance than NFC, so payment interception would be easier.

Deborah: I understand the convenience of paying with Apple Pay, but how is this more secure than paying with a credit card? Read more…

Categories: General, Technology Tags: , ,
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April 2nd, 2014

Declaring machine war against malicious Android packages

machine_war_theme_jpg

Do you know the notion “machine war”? If you’re a fan of the Matrix movie trilogy then probably, yes. It denotes the fictional rise of artificially intelligent machines against the human race and their violent conquest of human beings. We want to apply a similar dominance of computationally powerful machines, not to create a population of slaves, but against numerous malicious Android packages that wildly proliferate on unofficial markets.

The idea of malware detection with no human interaction appeared earlier on our blog. In a fundamental article about AVAST research activities by AVAST’s COO, Ondřej Vlček, he effectively described the technologies we employ to deal with Windows threats. Two techniques have been mentioned explicitly, Malware Similarity Search and Evo-Gen, both working with Windows PE file format. Sometimes the latter form of detection technique is denoted as weak automated anti-malware heuristic.

The main effort is to reach two slightly conflicting qualities at the same time: The robustness, which means that suggested methods cover as many threats as possible; and simplicity, so that the methods are easily implemented in AVAST’s mobile security solution. The search for balance between those qualities is assisted by lessons learned from automated heuristic for Windows PE executables.

Read more…

February 7th, 2014

Research buzz: Undercover technology

darth-vader

The Force is not strong with this one

Question of the week: What is the antivirus setting called DeepScreen?

DeepScreen is a new technology inside avast! Antivirus 2014. When you are about to run a suspicious program which is not yet known to the other core antivirus technologies, DeepScreen is invoked. Its task is to simply distinguish between good and bad software. Although it seems obvious and simple, it is not.

How DeepScreen uses The Force for good

This (magic) technology is served by two software components (the Jedi, if you will) which work hand-in-hand. One of them is well known from the past: The avast! Sandbox.

When a file is “DeepScreened,” it is actually run in the Sandbox, which is mainly responsible for keeping things isolated while watching for various high-level events and behavior of the program running. For example, it monitors the system call invocation and overall behavior of the program which is being executed. This seems to be just enough to distinguish between the Dark Side and the Light Side of the Force, but unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Firstly, how can you tell good and bad behavior apart? There are plenty of legitimate software products that use “weird” techniques to protect themselves. On the other hand, there is a bunch of malware samples that look innocent and behave well.

Secondly, malware is used to hiding away from the vigilant eyes of the Sandbox. The most common and powerful technique is encryption. In fact, there are more ways of encrypting and packing these well - known bad guys and rendering them undetectable than there are distinct malware samples.

SafeMachine: The new Jedi Order

deepscreenNow, let me introduce you to our new good guy: SafeMachine 2, a dynamic binary instrumentation tool and generic unpacker. Yes, a real Jedi Knight!

With the latest version of avast! Antivirus 2014, this technology is fully involved in fighting the bad guys. Whenever DeepScreen runs something in the Sandbox, it also performs binary instrumentation of the process.

Read more…

February 1st, 2014

Oversharers: The NSA Loves Your Openness and the Data You Share via Apps

“It has become second nature to connect various apps like Instagram, SocialCam, Angry Birds, CityVille, and Spotify to your Facebook ID. You just click ‘agree’ without even really knowing what you are agreeing to. What you don’t realize is that social apps linked to your Facebook profile can pretty much track your and your friends’ whole life.”

postThis quote, from Christian Sigl (co-founder of secure.me, which is now part of AVAST), originally appeared in Mashable in September, 2012.

Back then, we wanted to give users a heads-up and create awareness to think twice before sharing personal data with apps – regardless if via smartphone or the Web. Part of the message was that you never know what can happen with your data and in whose hands it could end up in.

Today, we know where the data went: The NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, have accessed data from Angry Birds and other smartphone and tablet apps, including sensitive information like age, location, education level and sexual orientation. The data accessed was collected directly from phones including geolocation, handset model, handset ID, software version and more – but personal information like sexual orientation, age and education level probably came from social media connect options.

Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, has reacted and denied that they provide data to the NSA. Instead, they point out that they will rethink relationships with the ad networks they work with. “The alleged surveillance may be conducted through third party advertising networks used by millions of commercial web sites and mobile applications across all industries,” Rovio announced.

Regardless of how this data landed on NSA desks, giving away your customer’s personally identifiable information to a third-party organization is never a good move.

Users couldn’t really have done anything to avoid their data from ending up with the NSA, the only preventative action that could have been taken would have been limiting the amount of personal data that could be collected from social networks. Social network data isn’t meta data, this is information people share voluntarily. So of course, we know today that the NSA can access very sensitive and personal information if they want to – they will find a way if you’re of interest to them. Most of us aren’t though and one thing you can do to limit the amount of data that’s collected is to avoid online oversharing with apps and social networks.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

December 17th, 2013

The essential security tool for traveling is on sale!

We’ve got the tool you need when you’re on the road this holiday season and all year long! Stay safe when using public WiFi ‘hotspot’ hp-securelinenetworks and access your favorite content from your PC with no regional restrictions when you use avast! SecureLine VPN.

Save 33% now on a 1 year avast! SecureLine license

avast! SecureLine secures your data and computer from intrusive hackers when using public WiFi hotspots at airports, cafes, libraries and hotels.

Your public WiFi communications are encrypted, which means that someone snooping on you will see a bunch of gibberish instead of your email, files, passwords, etc.

Your browsing is anonymous because avast! SecureLine VPN cloaks your IP address to keep your private searches private.

When you travel and need web access from different locations, you may find some sites blocked. Now you can use servers located in multiple countries (e.g. UK, USA, etc.) to access Geo-blocked websites like Netflix or Pandora.

You have until the end of the year to take advantage of 33% off a 1 year license for avast! SecureLine. Get it now!

Get avast! SecureLine VPN here.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

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July 31st, 2013

Join the avast! Mobile Security Beta test

app_locking-premiumWould you like a sneak-peek into avast! Mobile Security version 3, avast! Anti-Theft and the debut of a new product, avast! Backup? We are looking for advanced users to participate in the avast! Mobile Security Beta test starting today. This Beta test will run for a full week in which time you can give us valuable feedback that we can incorporate into our product before going public to millions of users.

Here’s how to join the Beta test

  • Sign up on the dedicated avast! Mobile Beta Testers Google Plus community
  • Click the product links on the right under ‘About this community’ and sign up as tester for our Beta program
  • Within 24 hours of the beta launch, you’ll see upgrades to avast! Mobile Security and avast! Anti-Theft in the Google Play Store. Our new product, avast! Backup will also be available to install from Google Play.
    !! Note that avast! Anti-Theft Advanced users (users who installed from our servers instead from Google Play) will need to send their IMEI to holzner at avast dot com to get their Anti-Theft client upgraded to the Beta version !!
  • In order to get your free premium test license, open any of our apps and click on the “Go Premium” button
  • Click on the “Voucher” button to the top right of the screen
  • Enter AVASTBETATEST as the voucher code
  • Get your free beta test license (valid until end of August)
  • Deliver your feedback to the avast! Mobile Security forum

This release incorporates a premium line on top of our free offering. You can learn more about the features on the avast! Mobile Security forum.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun, and contest information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

 

January 25th, 2013

Introducing the New Avast Bug Bounty Program

Hello Avast fans!

No Bugs

It is my pleasure to officially announce the new Avast bug bounty program. As a security company, we very much realize that security bugs in software are reality. But we also realize that companies that are able to use their user communities to find and fix bugs are generally more successful that those that don’t. Therefore, we have decided to reward individuals who help us find and fix security-related bugs in our own software. This makes us probably the first security vendor with a reward program like this: I think it’s mainly because the other companies generally take the position that ‘Hey, we’re a security company. So we know security and it can’t happen to us.’ But in reality, that’s not what’s happening. Just look at bugtraq or the CVE databases and you will find that security software is no more immune to these issues than any other programs. A bit of irony, given that people generally install security software to fight security issues in the first place, isn’t it?

We at Avast take this very seriously. We know that being a market leader (Avast has more users than any other AV company in the world), we’re a very attractive target for the attackers. So, here’s our call to action: let’s unite and find and fix those bugs before the bad guys do!

 

Here’s how it works:

  • The bounty program is designed for security-related bugs only. Sorry, we’re not paying for other types of issues like bugs in the UI, localization etc. (nevertheless, if you find such a bug, we will of course very much appreciate if you report it).
  • This program is currently intended only for our product, i.e. not the website etc.
  • We’re generally only interested in these types of bugs (in the order of importance):
    • Remote code execution. These are the most critical bugs.
    • Local privilege escalation. That is, using Avast to e.g. gain admin rights from a non-admin account.
    • Denial-of-service (DoS). In case of Avast, that would typically be BSODs or crashes of the AvastSvc.exe process.
    • Escapes from the avast! Sandbox (via bugs in our code)
    • Certain scanner bypasses. These include include straightforward, clear bypasses (i.e. scenarios that lead to direct infection, with no additional user input), as opposed to things like deficiencies in the unpacking engine etc. In other words, we’re interested only in cases that cannot be mitigated by adding a new virus definition (please don’t report undetected malware)
    • Other bugs with serious security implications (will be considered on a case by case basis).
  • The base payment is $200 per bug. Depending on the criticality of the bug (as well as its neatness) the bounty will go much higher (each bug will be judged independently by a panel of experts). Remote code execution bugs will pay at least  $3,000 – $5,000 or more.
  • We might change these ranges based on the number and quality of incoming reports. Generally, the less reports we will get, the higher the bounty will go.
  • We will only pay for bugs in Avast itself. For example, if you find a bug in a Microsoft library (even if it’s used by Avast), please report it to Microsoft instead (it would be great if you could also notify us, but unfortunately, we cannot offer any reward in such cases).
  • The program is currently limited to consumer Windows versions of Avast (i.e.: Avast Free Antivirus, Avast Pro Antivirus, and Avast Internet Security). Only bugs in the latest shipping versions of these products will be considered.
  • Payment will be done preferably by PayPal. If you can’t accept PayPal (e.g. because it doesn’t work in your country), please get in touch with us and we will try to figure out something else.
  • Because of certain legal restrictions, we cannot accept submissions from the following countries: Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan.
  • It is the researcher’s own responsibility to pay any taxes and other applicable fees in their country of residence.
  • In order to be eligible for the bounty, the bug must be original and previously unreported.
  • If two or more researchers happen to find the same bug, the bounty will be paid only to the one whose submission came in first.
  • You must not publicly disclose the bug until after an updated version of Avast that fixes the bug is released. Otherwise, the bounty will not be paid.
  • The bounty will be paid only after we fix the issue (or, in specific cases, decide to not fix it).
  • Some bugs may take longer to correct. We will do our best to fix any critical bugs in a timely fashion. We appreciate your patience.
  • Employees of AVAST and their close relatives (parents, siblings, children, or spouse) and AVAST business partners, agencies, distributors, and their employees are excluded from this program.
  • We reserve the right to change the rules of the program or to cancel it at any time.

 

How to report a bug and qualify for the bounty:

  • Please submit the bug to a special email address bugs@avast.com
  • If you’d like to encrypt your email (recommended), please use this PGP key.
  • A good bug report needs to contain sufficient information to reliably reproduce the bug on our side. Please include all information that may be relevant – your exact environment, detailed bug description, sample code (if applicable) etc. It also needs to contain a decent analysis – this is a program designed for security researchers and software developers and we expect certain quality level.
  • You will receive a response from an Avast team member acknowledging receipt of your email, typically within 24 hrs. If you do not receive a response, please do not assume we’re ignoring you – we will do our best to follow up with you asap. Also, in such a case it is possible your email didn’t make it through a spam filter.

 

Finally, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who helps to find and fix bugs in our products. Hopefully, this new reward program will take this initiative to a whole new level.

Happy [bug]hunting!

 

P.S. The bug bounty rules are also available on our main website here.

 

Categories: Technology, Uncategorized, Virus Lab Tags:
December 3rd, 2012

New Toy in the Avast Research Lab

The Avast Research Lab is where some of the Avast’s brightest brains essentially create new ways of detecting malware. These are either features inside the product (such as FileRep and autosandboxing, including all of its recent development) as well as components that run on our backend – i.e. things that users don’t necessarily see but that are equally important for the overall quality of the product.

In fact, working on the backend stuff takes up more of their time these days, as more and more intelligence in Avast is moving to the cloud and/or is being delivered in almost real time via the avast! streaming update technology. Read more…