Avast’ ye Pesky Virus!

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For the longest time, Android users were put in the same boat as Windows PC users where malware and Trojan horses on the Net would make their way onto the trusty computer to wreck havoc onto your daily lives. This vulnerability gave rise to an industry where major players designed firewall apps to protect you from malicious code.

Google had for some time refused to parse the code contained in apps which gave Android a bad name and only  started doing so after grudgingly admitting to its own faults in the design of the operating system. This meant that some of the exploits had to be plugged but that is by no means a thorough job. Still, malware code can slip through the cracks thanks in part to its open nature.

Apple never had this problem due to it’s Nazi like approach to code validation. If anything is suspicious, and falls outside of their parameter for common decency, it gets booted out. Baby gets thrown out with the bathwater too.

Bring in the Big Guns

Malware, as it appears, is pretty easy to sort the problem out with Avast, which it has been dutifully doing for the last six months on my devices . So without further ado, let us welcome the new Avast Security & Anti Virus premium which unfortunately is more a hit or miss affair.

All Security programs do one thing and do it well, that is to monitor each app and check it for malicious code—something that Google has been far too lazy to do. To detect such code, the app checks it against a background list of malicious code found on a data base and reports back to you if such a program has indeed been infected.

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Most of these features are already given FREE to users who install the app as can be seen from the above list. I have this running on my Android devices without any noticeable lag and works well even for smartphones and tablets with only 1GB of RAM. Those with far less RAM (512MB and below) will probably skip this as there won’t be enough RAM left to run your apps. So what’s the beef with the Go Premium feature?

Go Premium?

Here is the list of features that you will have to pay for….or so it seems.

★ App Locking: Locks an unlimited number of apps.

★ Ad Detector: Detects ads and provides full details of their tracking systems.

★ Password Check: Automatically locks after 3 wrong attempts to unlock.

★ Geo-Fencing: Phone performs specified actions (e.g. lock, siren, send location) when outside of some set perimeter (e.g. you go to a cafe and enable it with a 500m perimeter, so if somebody steals your phone and takes it beyond this perimeter, it activates your specified actions).

★ Remote SMS: Remotely send SMS from the phone.

★ Remote Data Recovery: Remotely retrieve data from the phone.

★ Remote Identification: Take picture of the thief when he/she tries to unlock device (use front or back camera, with face recognition). Record audio, with voice recognition.

★ Backup Features: Allows backup of video, audio, and apps (including settings and data for rooted phones, e.g. game progress).

★ Premium pricing (auto-renewal): $1.99 monthly, or $14.99 yearly.

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Curiosity killed the cat and the Ad detector feature is just another way for you to know which are serving up ads in-app versus those which desecrate your notification panel. But you know that already don’t you? In Jellybean, you can find out the offending app that sends out ads onto your notification panel by just holding down the ad that pops up to annoy you. This means there isn’t any use for this if you are already running on Google’s latest OS. It might come in handy if you are on ICS, and this is probably the only feature that will make sense if you don’t plan on upgrading the OS.

But on Jelly Bean,  games like Angry birds already tell you outright that it is ad supported and as such, why would you want Avast to tell you that? And yes, it blindingly does that….and you have to pay just to know this.

Password Check is quite useless as you can already install another app to do that one function. I have Cerberus installed so it takes care of that function if I ever got my device stolen. With Cerberus, I can already remote wipe my device if it came online and take a picture of the culprit—negating the feature offered in Avast Premium.

The only two features in premium that has any form of justification for its cost is the Remote Backup and Geo Fencing.

For Remote Backup, you can take back all your home-made porn before remotely wiping out the data to prevent getting blackmailed  for a million dollars by the pimply faced  kid that stole it. Geo Fencing is great if you happen to lose your device as often as you change underwear as it sets up a parameter (with the help of GPS) should it get stolen. So if your device starts to wail loud enough, be sure to run faster than Usain Bolt if you want to get it back.

Both these premium features don’t mean much in my book coz all devices can be turned off  the moment it is stolen, as the hardware switch will be used to shut the device, failing which they would pry the battery out.

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Now paying US$15 for an app that is going to help protect your device is well worth the cost but if you can already do so for free, it becomes really difficult to justify going premium. That said Avast is still a great app and I would highly recommend it even if you have no intention of going premium.

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What Blue Box’s Android Security Flaw Means to You

Image Before you jump the gun and throw out your Android device, let me explain how best to approach this. This is a Google Android Problem How this problem came about is really about the open platform that Google prides itself on.  Google doesn’t really scan for malicious code in the first place and if you thought that Google will protect you from Trojans at any previous occasion, well think again. The Blue Box discovered flaw capitalizes on Master Key or  Security Certificate flaw which allows would be hackers to modify the code without ever tampering with the Security Certificate. The chances of you catching a bug like this and having it take over your whole device is actually quite remote if you have downloaded an app from a reputable company. If you only download programs from reputable gaming companies, like EA, Rovio, Gameloft and use apps from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, etc, then you’re not going to be hit with a zombie code that takes total control of your device. The Rooted Problem Here is the greatest danger. Rooted phones. People love to tamper with the the versions of the OS and get new ROMs to replace that on a existing phone. You then play around with hacked apps, modified and claimed by hackers to do wonders for battery life, and with it, a rogue code is inserted into the modified app. You download it, and install it because your prefer to live dangerously and welcome the Trojan into your life. Good luck. Fix is available with Re-Key Image There is a third party app that can fix this, but it is only for ROOTED devices. You can look this up on the Play store. I won’t be bothered to post a link here as people who root their phones are asking for trouble in the first place. I don’t believe in rooting for one simple reason, the means outweigh the benefits. For one, many apps do not work well on rooted phones. They have niggling problems and having encountered a few, I decided that it wasn’t worth the problem. Android allows you to install apps from ‘unknown sources’, meaning if you want your device to catch herpes, you could easily do it by enabling this feature and downloading apps from various other sources. What you can do to protect yourself from Malware First, get your device sorted out with a anti-virus app like Avast, Kaspersky, Norton, AVG, etc. The free version will protect you from the usual culprits as it scans and detects a host of malware developed so far. I have downloaded viruses and Trojans type apps from the Google Playstore and had to remove them by using these virus busters. Even though Google is paying more attention to Malware found in Apps these days, I don’t think they are as aggressive in checking them as Apple does on its iOS platform. Be Safe than Sorry Just a few things to remember if you wanna stay safe. It’s simple and works for me.

  1. Do not ROOT your device unless you want to catch some app cooties.
  2. Download and use only apps from reputable companies and sources.
  3. Do not enable apps to be installed from “unknown sources”.