Earlier this week, security researchers unveiled a vulnerability that is believed to be the worst Android vulnerability yet discovered. The “Stagefright” bug exposes nearly 1 billion Android devices to malware. The vulnerability was found in “Stagefright”, an Android media library. Hackers can gain access to a device by exploiting the vulnerability and can then access contacts and other data, including photos and videos, and can access the device’s microphone and camera, and thus spy on you by recording sound and taking photos.
All devices running Android versions Froyo 2.2 to Lollipop 5.1.1 are affected, which are used by approximately 95% of all Android devices.
The scary part is that hackers only need your phone number to infect you. The malware is delivered via a multimedia message sent to any messenger app that can process MPEG4 video format – like an Android device’s native messaging app, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp. As these Android messaging apps auto-retrieve videos or audio content, the malicious code is executed without the user even doing anything – the vulnerability does not require the victim to open the message or to click on a link. This is unique, as mobile malware usually requires some action to be taken to infect the device. The malware could also be spread via link, which could be sent via email or shared on social networks, for example. This would, however, require user interaction, as the video would not load without the user opening a link. This exploit is extremely dangerous, because if abused via MMS, victims are not required to take any action and there are neither apparent nor visible effects. The attacker can execute the code and remove any signs that the device has been compromised, before victims are even aware that their device has been compromised.
A cybercriminal’s and dictator’s dream
Malware Writers Can’t Keep Their Hands Off Porn
In April, we reported on a porn clicker app that slipped into Google Play posing as the popular Dubsmash app. It seems that this malware has mutated and once again had a short-lived career on Google Play, this time hidden in various “gaming” apps.
For your viewing pleasure
The original form of this porn clicker ran completely hidden in the background, meaning victims did not even notice that anything was happening. This time, however, the authors made the porn a bit more visible to their victims.
The new mutation appeared on Google Play on July 14th and was included in five games, each of which was downloaded by 5,000-10,000 users. Fortunately, Google reacted quickly and has already taken down the games from the Play Store.
Once the app was downloaded, it did not really seem to do anything significant when opened by the user. However, once the unsuspecting victim opened his/her browser or other apps, the app began to run in the background and redirect the user to porn sites. Users may not have necessarily understood where these porn redirects were coming from, since it was only possible to stop them from happening once the app was killed.
Over time, we’ve noticed the presence of some fairly heated user debates disputing the necessity of security or antivirus apps for Android devices. This could have been sparked by our recent post which argues that you can’t always rely on the security of Google Play or because of the myth that antivirus companies create viruses to sell more software.
Certain security gurus claim that if users stick to downloading and purchasing apps using only the Google Play Store, nothing bad will happen to their devices. However, we found that this line of thinking is not 100% correct, as was demonstrated through the discovery of a rogue Dubsmash app or in the infamous case of apps on Google Play posing as games and infecting millions of users with adware. Despite these findings, there are some users who still feel that they’re safe whenever using Google Play. This feeling of false security could have negative consequences; for example, when your data or financial information is stolen or when you have to resort to resetting your device in order to cleanse it of malware.
So, we know we can’t rely on the Google Play Store all the time, but are third-party stores more secure? Of course not. In this case, how is it still possible that it’s not a problem to use third-party stores? First of all, it’s necessary to point out that there are certain legitimate and clean third-party stores, such as Amazon and FDroid. At the same time, there are tons of shady stores and even more black market .apk files promising to deliver you the latest features of a cracked app.
I’m glad to announce that we have acquired Remotium, a leader in virtual enterprise mobility, headquartered in Silicon Valley. Remotium’s award-winning and patent-pending technology, the Remotium Virtual Mobile Platform (VMP), provides enterprises with secure access to business-critical applications from anywhere and from any mobile or desktop device. With this product, corporate mobile users have all their personal data and apps resident on their mobile (iOS or Android) while all their corporate data and apps reside and execute on a server and are only displayed on the mobile. This is the perfect fit for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments.
Remotium‘s mobile solutions address the needs of modern enterprises. As more and more companies support BYOD policies, the question of how to implement these policies efficiently and securely is top of mind for everyone. As people bring their own devices to work, the lines between business and private data become blurry. In a study, IBM found that millions of people use dating apps on company smartphones, which could expose themselves and their employers to hacking, spying and theft. Out of the 41 dating apps analyzed by the researchers, 26 had medium or high severity vulnerabilities.
With Remotium’s technology, companies have the visibility and security needed to ensure data integrity and corporate compliance. At the same time, users enjoy increased privacy, as well as apps that look and feel consistent across mobile and desktop platforms. Remotium was named “Most Innovative Company” at RSA® Conference 2013 and won the Best of Show award at Interop Tokyo in June 2015.
With this acquisition we are expanding our mobile offerings into the enterprise space. Although our near-term approach with Remotium is to make the products successful in the enterprise market, we also see a tremendous opportunity to leverage this innovative technology within our traditional consumer and SMB markets.
We are pleased to add the Remotium staff to our team of more than 600 Avast employees – together we will further accelerate Remotium’s growth and expand its capabilities across enterprise mobility platforms.
Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, where mobile developers from far and wide came together to learn about the future of iOS and OS X systems. Along with being the first time I was able to participate in this sought-after conference, it was also my first time visiting San Francisco.
Once you get past its glitz and the glamour, the majority of the event revolves around waiting in a series of queues — long before the actual event began, the line for the event’s keynote lectures had formed around an entire city block. Although I wasn’t one of the first people to camp out there, I did arrive around 5:30 a.m. on Monday to stake out my spot. While the masses of people at WWDC can be a bit overwhelming, there really isn’t a better place to meet thousands of like-minded developers with whom one can strike up an interesting conversation discussing the ins and outs of of iOS development. Read more…
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.
Tomáš joined Avast in March 2014 as a Product Manager for Avast Mobile Security. Born in Čáslav, a small town in central Bohemia, he moved to Prague during high school with plans to study at the Police Academy of the Czech Republic. After a while, Tom decided he wanted to study and work in IT instead. After gaining experience while working at a successful Czech startup, taking on jobs as a freelancer and starting his own company focused on cloud document management, Tom joined Avast’s mobile team. In his free time, Tom enjoys climbing, cycling, writing and restoring his classic Škoda 1000 MB car.
1. What is Avast’s mobile team out to accomplish?
We’d like to become the most trusted mobile tools developer, allowing users to live their lives with their mobile devices safely and more easily.
2. Who or what helps you in coming up with new, creative ideas?
My colleagues are a huge inspiration to me. That’s one thing that I really enjoy about working at Avast – anyone and everyone can come up with new ideas to brainstorm. We are one big think tank.
3. What’s one thing that every user should know about his/her mobile device?
Users should be aware of the risks that mobile malware poses to their personal information and data. Although malware on mobile devices is less likely to break a user’s device than that of a PC, malicious apps can harvest and steal a lot of personal data. Even apps that aren’t malicious (often free apps) can access a lot of personal information. The more personal info that is shared, the more likely it is that a user’s privacy could become compromised.
4. What’s your favorite security tip?
Make sure to be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. Packet sniffing, or the monitoring of data traveling over a network, can be used to steal information and is very easy for hackers to carry out. It’s in your best interest to use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to unsecured networks.
5. Name one goal you’ve set for yourself at Avast.
I’d like to see Avast Mobile Security (AMS) become the most popular app that provides users with a straightforward, user-friendly overview of app permissions. AMS is an extremely versatile app with lots of potential, and I envision it serving as a true “guarding angel” for users, protecting them against mobile malware and allowing them to become familiar with the apps they use on a daily basis.
Avast’s mobile team recently held the second Avast Mobile Internal Conference (AMIC) in Prague, where the entire team came together to keep one another in the loop about the company’s apps and products, team activities, and goals for the department’s future. A series of lectures and interactive activities encouraged synergy and collaboration between product teams. In addition to everything that was accomplished at AMIC, the mobile team still managed to have quite a bit of fun at the conference. We’d like to congratulate the mobile department on this successful and productive event!
We’ve recently told you about Avast Battery Saver, an application which saves your Android’s power without hassle. It optimizes phone settings such as Internet connectivity, screen brightness, and timeout according to your needs. We’d now like to announce an exciting new feature of the app: Wi-Fi-based smart power profiles. These profiles are activated automatically based on designated local Wi-Fi networks that are detected. Users can now assign specific wireless networks to be used within their home or work smart profiles. Not only are Wi-Fi-based profiles more precise than GPS-based profiles, but they are also more efficient and require less energy to detect.
In contrast to other battery-saving 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.
“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.”
Avast Battery Saver significantly improves battery life, saving up to 20% on one charge — and it’s free from the Google Play Store.
New Wi-Fi-based profiles have been added to make the app’s convenient features significantly more efficient
- Smart profiles activate automatically based on time, location, user-designated Wi-Fi networks 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 the following four profiles: Home, Work, Night, and Super-Saving Emergency Mode. You can easily access the list of profiles by clicking the “Smart Profiles” button on the app’s home screen. Avast Battery Saver is available for download in the Google Play Store.
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.
How 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.
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 Anti-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.
Have fun checking out Avast Mobile Security’s cool and handy Anti-Theft features, but, please, use caution when testing the siren