Here’s your wrap up of security and privacy related news from the June 17 – 27 posts on the Avast blog:
It’s summertime in the Northern Hemisphere and many people are going on or planning their vacation. Beware of fake vacation packages and beautiful rental properties that are not as they seem. These Vacation scams can ruin your holiday, so read up before you become a victim.
More than 600 million Samsung phones were reported to be at risk because of a vulnerability found in the keyboard app SwiftKey. The best way to protect yourself is to use a virtual private network (VPN) when using an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot. If you have a Samsung S6, S5, or S4, you need to read Samsung phones vulnerable to hacker attack via keyboard update.
For as long as there have been governments, there have been spy agencies, and for as long as there have been spy agencies, they’ve done spying. Spy agencies are always looking for ways to get information. Information is valuable, always has been, always will be. ~Avast CEO Vince Steckler
New documents from the many that were leaked by former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden were published this week in The Intercept. They reveal that the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), spied on security companies including Avast, AVG, Kaspersky Lab, and Antiy. The spy agencies seem to be targeting non-American security companies; Avast and AVG are based in Prague, Czech Republic; Kaspersky is based in Moscow, Russia; and Antiy is Chinese. Together, these companies have nearly a billion users. No U.S. or U.K. -based companies were included in the list.
“Geopolitically, it makes sense that the NSA and GCHQ are targeting products that are prevalently used by foreign governments, like Kaspersky in Russia or CheckPoint in Israel,” said Steckler in an interview with RT News. “On the flip side, Russian or Chinese spy agencies may be similarly targeting products that the American government heavily uses, for example Symantec and McAfee. We’re hearing just one side of the story.”
An article in German magazine Der Spiegel stated that the NSA is capable of installing backdoors on devices by Juniper Networks (firewall manufacturer), Cisco and Huawei (giant network device manufacturers), and also, Dell. According to the article, a special hacking team intercepted some new computer deliveries to secretly install spyware in these machines. Der Spiegel did not reveal how they got access to this information, although it’s public that they have access to secret information leaked by the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
The magazine has access to secret documents describing a method of direct attack on an end-user device called “interdiction.” If a person was being investigated and bought a new computer, the Tailored Access Operations division (TAO) of the NSA could have access to it. They collect online information using a tool called XKeyscore, like the British journal The Guardian revealed last July. They also are able to redirect the internet traffic to their own servers. Der Spiegel said that this redirection occured with high success (50%) when people were browsing the professional network LinkedIn.
But I’m not interesting enough…
Ok. You’ll say that you’re not included in the “interesting” people to be investigated by the NSA. What you need to know, quickly, is that there are tons of spyware and behavior monitoring tools being distributed all over the world. Our team detected more than 6 million of them disguised as toolbars for browsers. These nasties monitor everything from your browser habits to your personal information.
Similar to NSA, some “security companies” do this dirty job of monitoring. Did you read about avast! BrowserCleaner yet? You can get rid of spyware toolbars using this tool inside avast! Antivirus products, or you can download the standalone version here. Learn more about it in this blog entry. And, of course, do not forget to alert your friends and family.
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