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March 10th, 2015

5 ways to thwart the thief who stole your Android

Avast Anti-Theft is free

Remote recovery options help you keep control of your device, even when it’s lost.

Avast Anti-Theft is a free app designed for Android smart phones and tablets. It’s main purpose is to help you locate your lost or stolen mobile device, allowing you to track it on a map and control it remotely. You recover your phone by controlling it remotely with SMS commands or via the internet by logging in to your My Avast account.

If your phone is lost or stolen, here are some things you can control remotely:

  1. 1. Locate your device on a map – Whether you misplaced your phone, left on the bus, or a thief grabbed it and ran, the GPS on your phone can be enabled so you can receive continuous GPS location updates.

Avast Anti-Theft user Ducky Boy wrote about his experience finding his phone that he dropped on the highway while riding his motorcycle using the GPS feature. Read about it in On the road with avast! Mobile Security.

  1. 2. SIM card change notification – Thieves usually change the SIM card after stealing a phone. Anti-Theft recognizes when this happens and notifies you of the new number and geo-location so you can maintain contact with your phone.

Partier and Avast user Andreas lost his phone during a particularly fun party. The next morning he remembered he had installed Avast Anti-Theft. Here’s how he got his phone back, Don’t be sorry for party rocking – install Avast Anti-Theft! Read more…

March 4th, 2015

Avast Battery Saver extends your Android’s battery life

New intelligent app from Avast learns individual user behavior and optimizes features to maximize battery life.

Avast Battery Saver app for Android

Get Avast Battery Saver for free from Google Play

Avast is excited to announce the release of our newest app, Avast Battery Saver. Battery Saver is the first intelligent battery-saver app for Android that increases battery life by an average of 7 hours. Avast Battery Saver optimizes your device’s settings, adjusting data connections, screen brightness and timeouts based off of its ability to learn about individual usage behavior.

“Everyone needs more battery life for their mobile devices, but most battery savers shut down the wrong apps,” said Jude McColgan, Avast’s President of Mobile. “Avast Battery Saver learns which apps are most important to the user, and shuts down only those that are less used.”

In contrast to other battery-saver applications, Avast Battery Saver learns about your daily routine and thus suggests the best smart profiles for your phone. It doesn’t require you to change your behavior or usage, nor does it affect voice calls, text messages, or the ring volume of your phone.

Avast Battery Saver significantly improves battery life, saving up to 20% on one charge — and it’s free from the Google Play Store.

This improved battery manager will take care of your battery’s health the same way a doctor takes care of yours. The result is more battery life with less hassle.

The app’s convenient features make Android devices significantly more efficient

  • Smart profiles activate automatically based on time, location, and battery level.
  • App consumption detects and permanently stops apps that drain too much battery life.
  • Precise estimate of remaining battery life based on actual phone usage and historical data. Battery level is displayed in a percentage and time remaining in status bar notification.
  • The application can turn off Wi-Fi when there are no known hotspots nearby.
  • Your phone limits connections to the Internet to every 5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes, based on your current profile configuration, when its screen is turned off.
  • Emergency mode is activated when your battery level is very low, and it turns off all functions that require significant energy, saving power for when you really need it (e.g. Wi-Fi, data connection, Bluetooth or GPS).

The app currently works with these profiles: Home, Work, Night, and Super-Saving Emergency Mode. You can easily switch from one mode to another and manage them within the app. Avast Battery Saver is now available for download in the Google Play Store.

March 3rd, 2015

Avast Launches Memory Saving Cleaner App for Android

Today, Avast announced the launch of Avast GrimeFighter at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The new application helps Android users free extra memory on their devices with just a few taps so they can save the data that matters to them while enjoying a faster, smoother performance on their devices. 

GrimeFighterHow Avast GrimeFighter works

Avast GrimeFighter begins by scanning all applications on an Android device, identifying unimportant or unnecessary data that could be eliminated without damaging applications’ functionalities. Using GrimeFighter’s easy-to-use interface, users can choose from two modes that allow them to eliminate excess files with ease: Safe Cleaner and Advanced Cleaner. Safe Cleaner is a customizable scanner that quickly identifies unimportant data for instant, one-tap removal. Advanced Cleaner runs in parallel to Safe Cleaner, mapping all of the device’s storage and creating a simple overview of all files and applications that take up space. Advanced Cleaner locates inflated or unused applications and arranges them by file type, size, usage, or name, so users can permanently remove the files and free up storage space.

In addition to cleaning up unwanted data, Avast GrimeFighter helps maximize storage capacity by syncing with personal cloud storage accounts so users can manage their device’s storage without having to delete valuable data. Users can drag files to the cloud icon and GrimeFighter will instantly transfer them to a safe folder in the cloud. Avast GrimeFighter is currently compatible with Dropbox and can assist users in setting up a Dropbox account. Additional popular cloud storage solutions will be added soon.

How does excess data get accumulated?

Bits and pieces of data accumulate on your device, whether you are aware of it or not. GrimeFighter helps you locate excess data that you wouldn’t typically be able to find, such as data left over from initiated app downloads, residual data, thumbnails, and app caches. Popular apps, like Facebook and Instagram, also create excess data on your device as they inflate from their original download size when used regularly. Avast tested some of the most popular Android apps and found that their size can grow exponentially during one week of heavy usage:

                                                                         install size:          additional data accumulated:

1)    Facebook                      36.7MB                        153MB

2)    Flipboard                    12.6MB                        71.1MB

3)    Google Maps            23.21MB                       68.8MB

Avast GrimeFighter will help the more than one billion Android users free up anywhere from 500MB to 1GB of storage per device to enjoy faster performance and is available for download on Google Play.  

February 24th, 2015

Are you as smart as your smartphone?

Smart phone

How do I find my apps on this thing?

Not too many years ago we had phones that only made calls. Smartphones are the newest generation of phones that bring a lot of possibilities right to our fingers through the apps specifically designed for them. We all got used to the Windows (or Mac) world, but now we are witnessing a revolution from “standard” programs and some specialized tools to a world where every common thing can be done by our smartphones. Sometimes it seems, that the device is smarter than we are!

But can it protect itself from the increasing number of threats?

You’ll find a lot of articles on the Internet which state that security companies exaggerate the need for mobile security and antivirus protection. You’ll read that Google Play and the new security technologies of Android Lollipop are the only things necessary for security. I could post many examples of such (bad) tips, but I don’t want to waste your time or mine.

Do you use only Google Play as your app source?

A common (and wise) security tip is to stick with Google Play for downloading apps. This is good advice despite the fact that we see here in the Avast blog that Google Play fails to detect some apps as malware. Look for our mobile malware senior virus analyst Filip Chytry’s articles. He continuously discovers holes in Google Play security.

However, what if you want apps that have been banned from Google Play? No, I’m not talking about (just) adult apps. Google banned anti-ad apps, for instance. So where is a safe place to get them? The answer is simple: outside of Google Play. The Amazon Appstore for Android is quickly increasing the possibilities.

Do you think that clean apps can’t become bad ones?

Clean apps can become bad ones, and with the new Google Play permission scheme, you may not even notice. This makes updating your apps (another very common and wise hint) an additional complication.

As the apps we love can turn against us, the best tip of all is that you install a mobile security app that helps you know what it being added to your phone.  Avast Mobile Security updates its virus database very often to detect the latest threats and allows you to install securely all the apps you love.

This makes you smarter than your smartphone! ;-)

 

February 9th, 2015

14 easy tips to protect your smartphones and tablets – Part II

More easy things you can do to secure your smartphone and tablet.

On our blog last week, we shared the first 7 easy security measures to protect your Android devices and the data stored there. But we haven’t finished them. Let’s go a little further.

8. Keep an eye in your phone or, if you can, set Geofencing protection

Don’t put your phone down and go somewhere else. And if you’re having fun in a bar and drinking a beer with friends, have a lucid thought before starting: Turn the Avast Geofencing module on. It’s easy. Open Avast Premium Mobile Security > Anti-Theft > Advanced Settings > Geofencing.

avast-Mobile-Premium_geo-fencing

Set Avast Geofencing on your phone to protect it from theft while you are occupied.

 

9. Be aware of what permissions apps require

Why should a flashlight app need access to your contacts? Why would a calculator need access to your photos and videos? Shady apps will try to upload your address book and your location to advertising servers or could send premium SMS that will cost you money. You need to pay attention before installing or, at least, uninstall problematic apps. It’s not easy to find a way (if any) to manage permissions in a non-rooted Android phone.

We have written about this before as apps could abuse the permissions requests not only while installing but also on updating. Read more to learn and be cautious: Google Play Store changes opens door to cybercrooks.

10. Keep your device up-to-date

Google can release security updates using their services running in your devices. Developers can do the same via an app update. Allow updates to prevent vulnerabilities, the same as you do in your computer. But pay attention to any changes. See tip #9.

11. Encryption

You can encrypt your account, settings, apps and their data, media and other files. Android allows this in its Security settings. Without your lockscreen PIN, password or gesture, nobody will be able to decrypt your data. So, don’t forget your PIN! Nevertheless, this won’t encrypt the data sent or received by your phone. Read the next tip for that.

12. In open/public Wi-Fi, use a VPN to protect your communication

Cybercrooks can have access to all your data in a public, open or free Wi-Fi hotspot at the airport or in a cafe. Avast gives you the ability to protect all inbound and outbound data of your devices with a secure, encrypted and easy-to-use VPN called Avast SecureLine. Learn more about it here.

13. Set the extra features of Lollipop (Android 5)

If you’re with Android Lollipop (v5), you can set a user profile to allow multiple users of the same device. You can create a restricted user profile that will keep your apps from being messed with by your kids or your spouse.

You can also pin the screen and allow other users to only see that particular screen and nothing more. It will prevent your friends and coworkers from accidentally (or on purpose) looking into your device.

14. Backup. Backup. Backup.

Well, our last tip is common digital sense. If everything fails, have a Plan B, and C and D… With Avast Mobile Backup you can protect all your data: contacts, call logs, messages, all your media files (photos, musics and videos) and your apps (with their data if you’re rooted) in safe servers. If your device gets broken, lost or stolen, everything will be there, encrypted and safe, for you to restore to your new device.

Have you followed all our tips? Are you feeling safe? Do you have an extra protection or privacy tip? Please, leave a comment below.

February 5th, 2015

How to turn off Avast Mobile Security’s Anti-Theft Siren

Avast Mobile Security includes many handy anti-theft features that can help you locate your stolen or lost phone. You can wipe it remotely, it informs you if your SIM card has been stolen, and even allows you take pictures of the person who took your phone. Another cool feature of Avast Anti-Theft is the siren. I decided to test the siren with my friend, who had just downloaded Avast Mobile Security, to see how it could affect a phone thief.

 What does the Avast Anti-Theft siren do?

The Avast AScreen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.49.44nti-Theft siren was developed by the Avast mobile team to be activated when you either lose your phone (even if it is misplaced in your room and on silent) or if it gets stolen. The siren continuously and loudly says the following, by default, when activated: “This device has been lost or stolen!”. In the advanced settings of Avast Mobile Security you can customize what message the siren will sound, if you do not want to use the pre-set message. You can do this under “Select Sound File” or “Record Siren Sound”.

The siren is designed to frighten phone thieves, or to warn people surrounding the thief that the phone might be in the hands of the wrong person. When the first siren cycle began, we tried to turn down the volume. However, the alarm would begin again at the loudest possible volume. We then decided to see what would happen if we took out the battery, this stopped the siren of course, but as soon as we put the battery back in, the siren started to go off again. To say the least, we agreed that it would effectively frustrate and annoy a thief too.

How to turn off the siren

After a minute of testing the app, we decided to turn off the siren using one of these two possible methods:

MyAvast: You can control your phone remotely via your MyAvast account. In your MyAvast account you can keep track of all your devices that have Avast products installed on them. From within your MyAvast account you send numerous Anti-Theft commands to your phone, including activating and deactivating the Anti-Theft siren. Once you are logged into your MyAvast account click on the name of the mobile device you want to control and then click on the siren symbol. From there you can send a command to turn the siren on and off.

SMS command: Using the Avast PIN you set up when you downloaded Avast Mobile Security, you can send SMS commands to your phone to remotely control it. To turn the siren off, text your Avast PIN followed by “SIREN OFF” to your phone.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.46.02

You can read more about how to set up your smartphone for remote control here on our blog and you can find a full list of the Anti-Theft controls on our website.

Have fun checking out Avast Mobile Security’s cool and handy Anti-Theft features, but, please, use caution when testing the siren :)

February 3rd, 2015

Apps on Google Play Pose As Games and Infect Millions of Users with Adware

A couple of days ago, a user posted a comment on our forum regarding apps harboring adware that can be found on Google Play. This didn’t seem like anything spectacular at the beginning, but once I took a closer look it turned out that this malware was a bit bigger than I initially thought. First of all, the apps are on Google Play, meaning that they have a huge target audience – in English speaking and other language regions as well. Second, the apps were already downloaded by millions of users and third, I was surprised that the adware lead to some legitimate companies.

Durak App Google Play The Durak card game app was the most widespread of the malicious apps with 5 – 10 million installations according to Google Play.

Durak interface
When you install Durak, it seems to be a completely normal and well working gaming app. This was the same for the other apps, which included an IQ test and a history app. This impression remains until you reboot your device and wait for a couple of days. After a week, you might start to feel there is something wrong with your device. Some of the apps wait up to 30 days until they show their true colors. After 30 days, I guess not many people would know which app is causing abnormal behavior on their phone, right? :)

Threats detected malcious appsEach time you unlock your device an ad is presented to you, warning you about a problem, e.g. that your device is infected, out of date or full of porn. This, of course, is a complete lie. You are then asked to take action, however, if you approve you get re-directed to harmful threats on fake pages, like dubious app stores and apps that attempt to send premium SMS behind your back or to apps that simply collect too much of your data for comfort while offering you no additional value.

An even bigger surprise was that users were sometimes directed to security apps on Google Play. These security apps are, of course, harmless, but would security providers really want to promote their apps via adware? Even if you install the security apps, the undesirable ads popping up on your phone don‘t stop. This kind of threat can be considered good social engineering. Most people won‘t be able to find the source of the problem and will face fake ads each time they unlock their device. I believe that most people will trust that there is a problem that can be solved with one of the apps advertised “solutions” and will follow the recommended steps, which may lead to an investment into unwanted apps from untrusted sources.

Avast Mobile Premium detects these apps, protecting its users from the annoying adware. Additionally, the apps’ descriptions should make users skeptical about the legitimacy of the apps.  Both in English and in other languages such as German, were written poorly: “A card game called ‘Durak‘ – one of the most common and well known game“.

The apps‘ secure hash algorithm (SHA256) is the following: BDFBF9DE49E71331FFDFD04839B2B0810802F8C8BB9BE93B5A7E370958762836 9502DFC2D14C962CF1A1A9CDF01BD56416E60DAFC088BC54C177096D033410ED FCF88C8268A7AC97BF10C323EB2828E2025FEEA13CDC6554770E7591CDED462D

February 2nd, 2015

14 easy tips to protect your smartphones and tablets – Part I

A few precautions can make a huge difference in the safety of your phone and the important things you saved on it.

Protect your smartphone

Follow our tips to secure your phone and the data on it.

We talk a lot about protection and privacy here in our blog. It’s a bit obvious as our “life” is in our devices nowadays: Photos of our last trip or our loved ones, videos of our children playing and growing up, contacts both professional and personal. All our precious and irreplaceable data is stored in these little machines. Take a minute of your time and follow us in this easy tour to protect them and save a lot of time and headaches.

1. Set your lockscreen

You wouldn’t leave your home door unlocked, would you? Same goes for your phone with all your private data. Set a password or PIN to prevent direct and easy access to your phone. Gestures and face recognition are less secure, but are better than nothing.

2. Hide your passwords from nosy people

You will argue that people around you can look over your shoulder and see what PIN or password you’re typing or gesture you make. Generally, we’re not worried about trustworthy people around us, but what about strangers in a public place like a bus or train? Open your phone settings and hide your passwords by unchecking the option: Settings > Security > Make passwords visible.

3. Protect your apps with a PIN

Not all apps are equal when it comes to security and privacy. Probably the weather app or calculator won’t keep your personal info. However, your messages and banking apps will thank you if you help them to keep their data private. You can imagine what might happen if your kids to open a specific app while they’re playing in your devices. Use Avast Mobile Security to set a PIN to block access to your apps. As an extra security measure, it will be good that your lockscreen and Avast PINs are different ones.

4. Disable installation of apps from unknown sources

If you do not use other app stores besides Google Play, then uncheck the option “Unknown sources” in your phone’s Security Settings page.  Even the Google Play Store sometimes allows malware to get by. It’s well known that most Android malware are fake apps disguised as legitimate apps, so double check the publisher. Be cautious of downloading from fake sites disguised as official ones – check the URL. Avoid completely pirated and cracked sources.

5. Set Avast Mobile Security to scan any app before installing

If you really need to use legal third party stores, like Amazon or F-Droid, please be careful: Keep Avast Mobile Security always on. You know that Avast scans any installed and running app. But do you know that you can set it to scan any app that is about to be installed? After you’ve installed Avast, when you’re about to install a new app, the phone will ask you if you want Avast or the default installer to handle the installation by default. Use Avast, it will scan and then release the app to the default installation process.

6. Disable USB Debugging

This tip is for advanced users. If you have enabled Developer options into your device (and you will know exactly if you did as you’re an advanced user!), please, turn USB debugging off. You will protect your device from outside abuse (via adb connections) if you do so. You don’t need it to be on all the time.

7. Install and set Avast Anti-Theft

This is an old tip, but it’s so important that it should be on all smartphone safety tips lists. Just note that installing is not enough. You need to properly configure Avast Anti-Theft (don’t worry, there is an easy wizard for it) step-by-step. It’s good to check if your location services are properly set also, otherwise, it will be difficult to track it. In other words, go to Settings > Location Access and set High accuracy mode.

We’ll talk about the other 7 tips in next days, so come back to the Avast blog.

January 16th, 2015

Guess what’s here? Here again? A new version of Avast Mobile Security is here, tell a friend!

In November, we called on our awesome advanced mobile beta testers to test the latest version of Avast Mobile Security. We listened to their feedback carefully and are proud to announce that the latest version of Avast Mobile Security is now available to everyone!

Screenshot_2014-11-21-15-28-58

What’s new in Avast Mobile Security?

First and foremost, we have completely redesigned the virus scanner, making it faster than ever (up to 50% faster!). Then we improved support for Intel-based devices, optimizing the virus scanner for the best performance possible.

Finally, 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.

In summary:

 The new features in Avast Mobile Security are:

  • A redesigned and faster than ever virus scanner (50% faster!)
  • Improved support for Intel-based devices
  • An awesome new referral program that rewards you for spreading the word about Avast Mobile Security!

How can I get the latest version of Avast Mobile Security?

If you don’t already have Avast Mobile Security, what are you waiting for?! Download it on Google Play now! Already have Avast Mobile Security? If you have enabled automatic updates in your Google Play settings, you are all set :) If you don’t have automatic updates enabled in your Google Play settings, you can visit our app on Google Play and upgrade manually!

Have fun using Avast Mobile Security – we look forward to hearing your feedback!

We would like to extend a special thanks to our beta testers, your feedback plays an extremely important role in developing our products!

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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January 15th, 2015

Fobus, the sneaky little thief that could

One small Android application shows lots of determination and persistence. Too bad it’s evil.

Mobile malware, Fobus, acts like this famous little engine. "I think I can, I think I can!"

Mobile malware, Fobus, acts like this famous little engine. “I think I can, I think I can!”

 

The year 2014 was significant with a huge rise in mobile malware. One of the families impacting our users was malware Fobus, also known as Podec. This malware poses as a more or less useful application, but for sure it won’t be what the user expects. This malware usually has two language versions, English and Russian, and applications seem to be generated automatically.

All that, and a bag of chips

From the permissions in the manifest, we can see that once Fobus is installed on the victim’s device it cannot only send SMS and call premium numbers, which may cost a lot of money, but it also works as  Spyware and can steal personal data from the infected device. That’s a lot of bad stuff packed into one small application.

Permission

Next up is a bit more technical stuff. If you are really eager, skip to Me thinks that something is amiss section to see how it works. Read more…