Category Archives: app security

Boost Your Bluetooth Security: 3 Tips to Prevent KNOB Attacks

Many of us use Bluetooth technology for its convenience and sharing capabilities. Whether you’re using wireless headphones or quickly Airdropping photos to your friend, Bluetooth has a variety of benefits that users take advantage of every day. But like many other technologies, Bluetooth isn’t immune to cyberattacks. According to Ars Technica, researchers have recently discovered a weakness in the Bluetooth wireless standard that could allow attackers to intercept device keystrokes, contact lists, and other sensitive data sent from billions of devices.

The Key Negotiation of Bluetooth attack, or “KNOB” for short, exploits this weakness by forcing two or more devices to choose an encryption key just a single byte in length before establishing a Bluetooth connection, allowing attackers within radio range to quickly crack the key and access users’ data. From there, hackers can use the cracked key to decrypt data passed between devices, including keystrokes from messages, address books uploaded from a smartphone to a car dashboard, and photos.

What makes KNOB so stealthy? For starters, the attack doesn’t require a hacker to have any previously shared secret material or to observe the pairing process of the targeted devices. Additionally, the exploit keeps itself hidden from Bluetooth apps and the operating systems they run on, making it very difficult to spot the attack.

While the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (the body that oversees the wireless standard) has not yet provided a fix, there are still several ways users can protect themselves from this threat. Follow these tips to help keep your Bluetooth-compatible devices secure:

  • Adjust your Bluetooth settings. To avoid this attack altogether, turn off Bluetooth in your device settings.
  • Beware of what you share. Make it a habit to not share sensitive, personal information over Bluetooth.
  • Turn on automatic updates. A handful of companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, have released patches to mitigate this vulnerability. To ensure that you have the latest security patches for vulnerabilities such as this, turn on automatic updates in your device settings.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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How to Build Your 5G Preparedness Toolkit

5G has been nearly a decade in the making but has really dominated the mobile conversation in the last year or so. This isn’t surprising considering the potential benefits this new type of network will provide to organizations and users alike. However, just like with any new technological advancement, there are a lot of questions being asked and uncertainties being raised around accessibility, as well as cybersecurity. The introduction of this next-generation network could bring more avenues for potential cyberthreats, potentially increasing the likelihood of denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks due to the sheer number of connected devices. However, as valid as these concerns may be, we may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. While 5G has gone from an idea to a reality in a short amount of time for a handful of cities, these advancements haven’t happened without a series of setbacks and speedbumps.

In April 2019, Verizon was the first to launch a next-generation network, with other cellular carriers following closely behind. While a technological milestone in and of itself, some 5G networks are only available in select cities, even limited to just specific parts of the city. Beyond the not-so widespread availability of 5G, internet speeds of the network have performed at a multitude of levels depending on the cellular carrier. Even if users are located in a 5G-enabled area, if they are without a 5G-enabled phone they will not be able to access all the benefits the network provides. These three factors – user location, network limitation of certain wireless carriers, and availability of 5G-enabled smartphones – must align for users to take full advantage of this exciting innovation.

While there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of 5G, as well as what cyberthreats may emerge as a result of its rollout, there are a few things users can do to prepare for the transition. To get your cybersecurity priorities in order, take a look at our 5G preparedness toolkit to ensure you’re prepared when the nationwide roll-out happens:

  • Follow the news. Since the announcement of a 5G enabled network, stories surrounding the network’s development and updates have been at the forefront of the technology conversation. Be sure to read up on all the latest to ensure you are well-informed to make decisions about whether 5G is something you want to be a part of now or in the future.
  • Do your research. With new 5G-enabled smartphones about to hit the market, ensure you pick the right one for you, as well as one that aligns with your cybersecurity priorities. The right decision for you might be to keep your 4G-enabled phone while the kinks and vulnerabilities of 5G get worked out. Just be sure that you are fully informed before making the switch and that all of your devices are protected.
  • Be sure to update your IoT devices factory settings. 5G will enable more and more IoT products to come online, and most of these connected products aren’t necessarily designed to be “security first.” A device may be vulnerable as soon as the box is opened, and many cybercriminals know how to get into vulnerable IoT devices via default settings. By changing the factory settings, you can instantly upgrade your device’s security and ensure your home network is secure.
  • Add an extra layer of security.As mentioned, with 5G creating more avenues for potential cyberthreats, it is a good idea to invest in comprehensive mobile security to apply to all of your devices to stay secure while on-the-go or at home.

Interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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Be Wary of WhatsApp Messages Offering 1000GB of Free Data

Global messaging giant WhatsApp turned 10 years old this year. It’s not unusual for companies to provide loyal customers or members with gifts to show their appreciation during these milestones. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are using this as a ploy to carry out their malicious schemes. According to Forbes, security researchers have discovered a fraudulent message promising users 1000GB of free internet data, which is a scam bringing in ad click revenue for cybercriminals.

Let’s dive into the details of this suspicious message. The text reads “WhatsApp Offers 1000GB Free Internet!” and includes a link to click on for more details. However, the link provided doesn’t use an official WhatsApp domain. Many users might find this confusing since some businesses do run their promotions through third-party organizations. Forbes states that once a user clicks on the link, they are taken to a landing page that reads “We offer you 1000 GB free internet without Wi-Fi! On the occasion of our 10th anniversary of WhatsApp.” To make the user feel like they need to act fast, the landing page also displays a bright yellow countdown sticker warning that there are a limited number of awards left.

As of now, it doesn’t appear that the link spreads malware or scrapes users’ personal information. However, the scam could eventually evolve into a phishing tactic. Additionally, the more users click on the fraudulent link, the more the cybercriminals behind this scheme rack up bogus ad clicks. This ultimately brings in revenue for the cybercrooks, encouraging them to continue creating these types of scams. For example, the domain being used by the scammers behind the WhatsApp message also hosts other fake brand-led promotional offers for Adidas, Nestle, Rolex, and more.

So, what can users do to prevent falling for these phony ads? Check out the following tips to help you stay secure:

  • Avoid interacting with suspicious messages. Err on the side of caution and don’t respond to direct messages from a company that seems out of the ordinary. If you want to know if a company is participating in a promotional offer, it is best to go directly to their official site to get more information.
  • Be careful what you click on.If you receive a message in an unfamiliar language, one that contains typos, or one that makes claims that seem too good to be true, avoid clicking on any attached links.
  • Stay secure while you browse online. Security solutions like McAfee WebAdvisor can help safeguard you from malware and warn you of phishing attempts so you can connect with confidence.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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4 Ways for Parents to Handle the Facebook Messenger Bug

9 out of 10 children in the U.S. between the ages of six and twelve have access to smart devices. And while parents know it’s important for their children to learn to use technology in today’s digital world, 75% want more visibility into their kids’ digital activities. This is precisely why Facebook designed Messenger Kids to empower parents to monitor their children’s safety online. However, the popular social media platform had to recently warn users of a security issue within this app for kids.

The central benefit of Messenger Kids is that children can only chat with other users their parents approve of. Yet one design flaw within the group chat feature prevented Facebook from upholding this rule. Children who started a group chat could include any of their approved connections in the conversation, even if a user was not authorized to message the other kids in the chat. As a result, thousands of children were able to connect with users their parents weren’t aware of via this flaw.

Luckily, Facebook removed the unauthorized group chats and flagged the issue to all affected users, promising that that potentially unsafe chats won’t happen again. While Facebook has not yet made a formal public response, they confirmed the bug to The Verge:

“We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats. We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”

Now, Facebook is currently working on still resolving the bug itself. However, there are still many actions parents can take to ensure that their child is safe on Facebook Messenger, and social media apps in general. Start by following these four best practices to secure your kid’s online presence:

  • Turn on automatic app updates on your child’s device. Updates usually include new and improved app features that your child will be excited to try. But more importantly, they tend to account for security bugs. Delaying updates can leave apps vulnerable to cybercriminals and turning on automatic app updates ensures that you don’t have to worry about missing one.
  • Get educated. Some parents find it helpful to use the same apps as their child to better understand how it works and what safety threats might be relevant. Facebook also offers resources online that provide guidance for staying safe, such as how and when to block a user and what kind of content is or isn’t risky to share. Additionally, it’s always a best practice to read the terms and conditions of an app before downloading to make sure you’re aware of what your child is signing up for.
  • Keep an open dialogue about online safety. It’s important to discuss your child’s online activities with them and walk them through best internet practices, such as changing passwords every so often and not clicking on links from unknown sources. That way, they’ll be better prepared for potential cyberthreats. Making the internet a part of the conversion will also help your child feel comfortable coming to you about things they might be skeptical about online.
  • Consider leveraging a security solution with parental controls. Depending on your child’s age and how much of a window you want into their online behaviors, you can leverage a solution such as McAfee Safe Family that can be helpful for creating a safe online environment. You can block certain websites and create predefined rules, which will help prevent your child from sharing comprising information.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Downloaded FaceApp? Here’s How Your Privacy is Now Affected

If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve probably seen some people in your feed posting images of themselves looking elderly. That’s because FaceApp, an AI face editor that went viral in 2017, is making a major comeback with the so-called FaceApp Challenge — where celebrities and others use the app’s old age filter to add decades onto their photos. While many folks have participated in the fun, there are some concerns about the way that the app operates when it comes to users’ personal privacy.

According to Forbes, over 100,000 million people have reportedly downloaded FaceApp from the Google Play Store and the app is the number one downloaded app on the Apple App Store in 121 different countries. But what many of these users are unaware of is that when they download the app, they are granting FaceApp full access to the photos they have uploaded. The company can then use these photos for their benefit, such as training their AI facial recognition algorithm. And while there is currently nothing to indicate that the app is taking photos for malicious intent, it is important for users to be aware that their personal photos may be used for other purposes beyond the original intent.

So, how can users enjoy the entertainment of apps like FaceApp without sacrificing their privacy? Follow these tips to help keep your personal information secure:

  • Think before you upload. It’s always best to err on the side of caution with any personal data and think carefully about what you are uploading or sharing. A good security practice is to only share personal data, including personal photos, when it’s truly necessary.
  • Update your settings. If you’re concerned about FaceApp having permission to access your photos, it’s time to assess the tools on your smartphone. Check which apps have access to information like your photos and location data. Change permissions by either deleting the app or changing your settings on your device.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Watch Your Webcam: Tips to Protect Your Mac From Zoom Hackers

You’ve probably heard of the popular video conferencing platform, Zoom. This platform enables its millions of users in various locations to virtually meet face to face. In an effort to enhance user experience and work around changes in Safari 12, Zoom installed a web server that allows users to enjoy one-click-to-join meetings. Unfortunately, a security researcher recently disclosed that this product feature acts as a flaw that could allow cybercriminals to activate a Mac user’s webcam without their permission.

How exactly does this vulnerability work? Cybercriminals are able to exploit a feature that allows users to send a meeting link directly to a recipient. When the recipient clicks on the link, they are automatically launched into the video conferencing software. If the user has previously installed the Zoom app onto their Mac and hasn’t turned off their camera for meetings, Zoom will auto-join the user to a conference call with the camera on. With this flaw, an attacker can send a victim a meeting link via email message or web server, allowing them to look into a victim’s room, office, or wherever their camera is pointing. It’s important to note that even if a user has deleted the Zoom app from their device, the Zoom web server remains, making the device susceptible to this vulnerability.

While the thought of someone unknowingly accessing a user’s Mac camera is creepy, this vulnerability could also result in a Denial of Service (DoS) attack by overwhelming a user’s device with join requests. And even though this patch has been successfully patched by Zoom, it’s important for users to realize that this update is not enforced by the platform. So, how can Zoom users avoid getting sucked into a potentially malicious call? Check out these security tips to stay secure on conference calls:

  • Adjust your Zoom settings. Users can disable the setting that allows Zoom to turn your camera on when joining a meeting. This will prevent a hacker from accessing your camera if you are sent a suspicious meeting link.
  • Update, update, update. Be sure to manually install the latest Zoom update to prevent DoS or other potential attacks. Additionally, Zoom will introduce an update in July that allows users to apply video preferences from their first call to all future calls. This will ensure that if a user joins their first meeting without video, this setting will remain consistent for all other calls.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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#Verified or Phishing Victim? 3 Tips to Protect Your Instagram Account

If you’re an avid Instagram user, chances are you’ve come across some accounts with a little blue checkmark next to the username. This little blue tick is Instagram’s indication that the account is verified. While it may seem insignificant at first glance, this badge actually means that Instagram has confirmed that the account is an authentic page of a public figure, celebrity, or global brand. In today’s world of social media influencers, receiving a verified badge is desirable so other users know you’re a significant figure on the platform. However, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the appeal of being Instagram verified as a way to convince users to hand over their credentials.

So, how do cybercriminals carry out this scheme? According to security researcher Luke Leal, this scam was distributed as a phishing page through Instagram. The page resembled a legitimate Instagram submission page, prompting victims to apply for verification. After clicking on the “Apply Now” button, victims were taken to a series of phishing forms with the domain “Instagramforbusiness[.]info.” These forms asked users for their Instagram logins as well as confirmation of their email and password credentials. However, if the victim submitted the form, their Instagram credentials would make their way into the cybercriminal’s email inbox. With this information, the cybercrooks would have unauthorized access to the victim’s social media page. What’s more, since this particular phishing scam targets a user’s associated email login, hackers would have the capability of resetting and verifying ownership of the victim’s account.

Whether you’re in search of an Instagram verification badge or not, it’s important to be mindful of your cybersecurity. And with Social Media Day right around the corner, check out these tips to keep your online profiles protected from phishing and other cyberattacks:

  • Exercise caution when inspecting links. If you examine the link used for this scam (Instagramforbusiness[.]info), you can see that it is not actually affiliated with Instagram.com. Additionally, it doesn’t use the secure HTTPS protocol, indicating that it is a risky link. Always inspect a URL before you click on it. And if you can’t tell whether a link is malicious or not, it’s best to avoid interacting with it altogether.
  • Don’t fall for phony pages. If you or a family member is in search of a verified badge for their Instagram profile, make sure they are familiar with the process. Instagram users should go into their own account settings and click on “Request on verification” if they are looking to become verified. Note that Instagram will not ask for your email or password during this process, but will send you a verification link via email instead.
  • Reset your password. If you suspect that a hacker is attempting to gain control of your account, play it safe by resetting your password.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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3 Tips Venmo Users Should Follow to Keep Their Transactions Secure

You’ve probably heard of Venmo, the quick and convenient peer-to-peer mobile payments app. From splitting the check when eating out with friends to dividing the cost of bills, Venmo is an incredibly easy way to share money. However, users’ comfort with the app can sometimes result in a few negligent security practices. In fact, computer science student Dan Salmon recently scraped seven million Venmo transactions to prove that users’ public activity can be easily obtained if they don’t have the right security settings flipped on. Let’s explore his findings.

By scraping the company’s developer API, Salmon was able to download millions of transactions across a six-month span. That means he was able to see who sent money to who, when they sent it, and why – just as long as the transaction was set to “public.” Mind you, Salmon’s download comes just a year after that of a German researcher, who downloaded over 200 million transactions from the public-by-default app last year.

These data scrapes, if anything, act as a demonstration. They prove to users just how crucial it is to set up online mobile payment apps with caution and care. Therefore, if you’re a Venmo or other mobile payment app user, make sure to follow these tips in order to keep your information secure:

  • Set your settings to “private” immediately. Only the sender and receiver should know about a monetary transaction in the works. So, whenever you go to send money on Venmo or any other mobile payment app, make sure the transaction is set to “private.” For Venmo users specifically, you can flip from “public” to “private” by just toggling the setting at the bottom right corner of main “Pay or Request” page.
  • Limit the amount of data you share. Just because something is designed to be social doesn’t mean it should become a treasure trove of personal data. No matter the type of transaction you’re making, always try to limit the amount of personal information you include in the corresponding message. That way, any potential cybercriminals out there won’t be able to learn about your spending habits.
  • Add on extra layers of security. Beyond flipping on the right in-app security settings, it’s important to take any extra precautions you can when it comes to protecting your financial data. Create complex logins to your mobile payment apps, participate in biometric options if available, and ensure your mobile device itself has a passcode as well. This will all help ensure no one has access to your money but you.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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1.1M Emuparadise Accounts Exposed in Data Breach

If you’re an avid gamer or know someone who is, you might be familiar with the retro gaming site Emuparadise. This website boasts a large community, a vast collection of gaming music, game-related videos, game guides, magazines, comics, video game translations, and more. Unfortunately, news just broke that Emuparadise recently suffered a data breach in April 2018, exposing the data of about 1.1 million of their forum members.

The operators of the hacked-database search engine, DeHashed, shared this compromised data with the data breach reference site Have I Been Pwned. According to the site’s owner Troy Hunt, the breach impacted 1,131,229 accounts and involved stolen email addresses, IP addresses, usernames, and passwords stored as salted MD5 hashes. Password salting is a process of securing passwords by inputting unique, random data to users’ passwords. However, the MD5 algorithm is no longer considered sufficient for protecting passwords, creating cause for cybersecurity concern.

Emuparadise forced a credential reset after the breach occurred in April 2018. It’s important that users of Emuparadise games take steps to help protect their private information. If you know someone who’s an avid gamer, pass along the following tips to help safeguard their security:

  • Change up your password. If you have an Emuparadise account, you should change up your account password and email password immediately. Make sure the next one you create is strong and unique so it’s more difficult for cybercriminals to crack. Include numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols. The more complex your password is, the better!
  • Keep an eye out for sketchy emails and messages. Cybercriminals can leverage stolen information for phishing emails and social engineering scams. If you see something sketchy or from an unknown source in your email inbox, be sure to avoid clicking on any links provided.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you or someone you know has made an Emuparadise account, use this tool to check if you could have been potentially affected.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Are Your Kids Part of the TikTok App Craze? Here’s What Parents Need to Know

What phone app has over 150 million active users and more than 14 million uploads every day? You might guess Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, but you’d be wrong. Meet TikTok — a video app kids are flocking to that is tons of fun but also carries risk.

What Is It?

TikTok is a free social media app that allows users to create and share short 15-second videos set to favorite music. If your child was a fan of Musical.ly, then he or she is probably active on TikTok since Musical.ly shut down last year and moved all of its users to TikTok. Kids love the app because it’s got all the social perks — music, filters, stickers — and the ability to amass likes and shares (yes, becoming TikTok-famous is an aspiration for some).

The Upside

There are a lot of positive things about this app. It’s filling the void of the sorely missed Vine app in that it’s a fun hub for video creation and peer connection. Spending time on TikTok will make you laugh out loud, sing, and admire the degree of creativity so many young users put into their videos. You will see everything from heartfelt, brave monologues, to incredible athletic stunts, to hilarious, random moments in the lives of teens. It’s serious fun.

Another big positive is the app appears to take Digital Wellbeing (tools in the app that encourage screen time), privacy, and online safety seriously. Its resources tab is rich with tips for both parents and kids.

The (Potential) Downside

As with any other social app, TikTok carries inherent risks, as reported by several news sources, including ABC.

For instance, anyone can view your child’s videos, send a direct message, and access their location information. And, while TikTok requires that users are at least 13 years old to use the app and anyone under 18 must have parent’s approval, if you browse the app, you’ll quickly find that plenty of preteens are using it. A predator could easily create a fake account or many accounts to strike up conversations with minors.

Another danger zone is inappropriate content. While a lot of TikTok content is fun and harmless, there’s a fair share of the music that includes explicit language and users posting content that should not be viewed by a young audience.

And, wherever there’s a public forum, there’s a risk of cyberbullying. When a TikTok user posts a video, that content instantly becomes open for public comment or criticism and dialogue can get mean.

Talking Points for Families

Most social media apps have an inherent risk factor because the world wide web is just that — much of the planet’s population in the palm of your child’s hand. Different age groups and kids will use apps differently. So, when it comes to apps, it’s a good idea to monitor how your child uses each app and tailor conversations from there.

  • Download the app. If your child uses TikTok, it’s a good idea to download the app too. Look around inside the community. Analyze the content and the culture. Are the accounts your child follows age appropriate? Are the comments and conversations positive? Does your child know his or her followers? Is your child posting appropriately?
  • Talk about the risks. Spend time with your child and watch how he or she uses TikTok. Let them teach you why they love it. Encourage creativity and fun, but don’t hesitate to point out danger zones and how your child can avoid them.
  • Monitor direct messages. This may seem invasive, but a lot of the safety threats to your child take place behind the curtain of the public feed in direct messages. Depending on the age of your child (and the established digital ground rules of your family) consider requiring access to his or her account.
  • Adjust settings. Make sure to click account settings to ‘private’ so only people your child knows can access his or her content and send direct messages. Also, turn off location services and consider getting comprehensive security software for all family devices.

Apps are where the fun is for kids so you can bet your child will at least check out buzz-worthy platforms like TikTok. They may browse, or they may become content creators. Your best social monitoring tool is to keep an open dialogue with your child. Keep talking with your kids about what’s going on in their digital life — where they hang out, who their friends are, and what’s new.  You may get some resistance but don’t let that stop you from doing all you can to keep your family safe online.

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Game Golf Exposure Leaves Users in a Sand Trap of Data Concerns

Apps not only provide users with a form of entertainment, but they also help us become more efficient or learn new things. One such app is Game Golf, which comes as a free app, a paid pro version with coaching tools, or with a wearable analyzer. With over 50,000 downloads on Google Play, the app helps golfers track their on-course performance and use the data to help improve their game. Unfortunately, millions of golfer records from the Game Golf app were recently exposed to anyone with an internet connection, thanks to a cloud database lacking password protection.

According to researchers, this exposure consisted of millions of records, including details on 134 million rounds of golf, 4.9 million user notifications, and 19.2 million records in an activity feed folder. Additionally, the database contained profile data like usernames, hashed passwords, emails, gender, Facebook IDs, and authorization tokens. The database also contained network information for the company behind the Game Golf app, Game Your Game Inc., including IP addresses, ports, pathways, and storage information that cybercrooks could potentially exploit to further access the network. A combination of all of this data could theoretically provide cybercriminals with more information on the user, creating greater privacy concerns. Thankfully, the database was secured about two weeks after the company was initially notified of the exposure.

Although it is still unclear as to whether cybercriminals took a swing at this data, the magnitude of the information exposed by the app is cause for concern. Luckily, users can follow these tips to help safeguard their data:

  • Change your passwords. If a cybercriminal got a hold of the exposed data, they could easily gain access into other online accounts if your login credentials were the same across different platforms. Err on the side of caution and change your passwords to something strong and unique for each account.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you’ve used the Game Golf app and believe your data might have been exposed, use this tool to check or set an alert to be notified of other potential exposures.
  • Secure your online profiles. Use a security solution like McAfee Safe Connect to encrypt your online activity, help protect your privacy by hiding your IP address, and better defend against cybercriminals.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Breaches and Bugs: How Secure are Your Family’s Favorite Apps?

app safety

app safetyIs your family feeling more vulnerable online lately? If so, you aren’t alone. The recent WhatsApp bug and social media breaches recently have app users thinking twice about security.

Hackers behind the recent WhatsApp malware attack, it’s reported, could record conversations, steal private messages, grab photos and location data, and turn on a device’s camera and microphone. (Is anyone else feeling like you just got caught in the middle an episode of Homeland?)

There’s not much you and your family can do about an attack like this except to stay on top of the news, be sure to share knowledge and react promptly, and discuss device security in your home as much as possible.

How much does your family love its apps? Here’s some insight:

  • Facebook Messenger 3.408 billion downloads
  • WhatsApp 2.979 billion downloads
  • Instagram 1.843 billion downloads
  • Skype 1.039 billion downloads
  • Twitter 833.858 million downloads
  • Candy Crush 805.826 million downloads
  • Snapchat 782.837 million downloads

So, should you require your family to delete its favorite apps? Not even. A certain degree of vulnerability comes with the territory of a digital culture.

However, what you can and should do to ease that sense of vulnerability is to adopt proactive safety habits — and teach your kids — to layer up safeguards wherever possible.

Tips to Help Your Family Avoid Being Hacked

Don’t be complacent. Talk to your kids about digital responsibility and to treat each app like a potential doorway that could expose your family’s data. Take the time to sit down and teach kids how to lock down privacy settings and the importance of keeping device software updated. Counsel them not to accept data breaches as a regular part of digital life and how to fight back against online criminals with a security mindset.

Power up your passwords. Teach your kids to use unique, complex passwords for all of their apps and to use multi-factor authentication when it’s offered.

Auto update all apps. App developers regularly issue updates to fix security vulnerabilities. You can turn on auto updates in your device’s Settings.

Add extra security. If you can add a robust, easy-to-install layer of security to protect your family’s devices, why not? McAfee mobile solutions are available for both iOS and Android and will help safeguard devices from cyber threats.

Avoid suspicious links. Hackers send malicious links through text, messenger, email, pop-ups, or within the context of an ongoing conversation. Teach your kids to be aware of these tricks and not to click suspicious links or download unfamiliar content.

Share responsibly. When you use chat apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it’s easy to forget that an outsider can access your conversation. Remind your children that nothing is private — even messaging apps that feel as if a conversation is private. Hackers are looking for personal information (birthday, address, hometown, or names of family members and pets) to crack your passwords, steal your identity, or gain access to other accounts.

What to Do If You Get Hacked

If one of your apps is compromised, act quickly to minimize the fallout. If you’ve been hacked, you may notice your device running slowly, a drain on your data, strange apps on your home screen, and evidence of calls, texts or emails you did not send.

Social media accounts. For Facebook and other social accounts, change your password immediately and alert your contacts that your account was compromised.

Review your purchase history. Check to see if there are any new apps or games installed that you didn’t authorize. You may have to cancel the credit card associated with your Google Play or iTunes account.

Revoke app access, delete old apps. Sometimes it’s not a person but a malicious app you may have downloaded that is wreaking havoc on your device. Encourage your kids to go through their apps and delete suspicious ones as well as apps they don’t use.

Bugs and breaches are part of our digital culture, but we don’t have to resign ourselves to being targets. By sharing knowledge and teaching kids to put on a security mindset, together, you can stay one step ahead of a cybercrook’s digital traps.

The post Breaches and Bugs: How Secure are Your Family’s Favorite Apps? appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

3 Tips for Protecting Against the New WhatsApp Bug

Messaging apps are a common form of digital communication these days, with Facebook’s WhatsApp being one of the most popular options out there. The communication platform boasts over 1.5 billion users – who now need to immediately update the app due to a new security threat. In fact, WhatsApp just announced a recently discovered security vulnerability that exposes both iOS and Android devices to malicious spyware.

So, how does this cyberthreat work, exactly? Leveraging the new WhatsApp bug, hackers first begin the scheme by calling an innocent user via the app. Regardless of whether the user picks up or not, the attacker can use that phone call to infect the device with malicious spyware. From there, crooks can potentially snoop around the user’s device, likely without the victim’s knowledge.

Fortunately, WhatsApp has already issued a patch that solves for the problem – which means users will fix the bug if they update their app immediately. But that doesn’t mean users shouldn’t still keep security top of mind now and in the future when it comes to messaging apps and the crucial data they contain. With that said, here are a few security steps to follow:

  • Flip on automatic updates. No matter the type of application or platform, it’s always crucial to keep your software up-to-date, as fixes for vulnerabilities are usually included in each new version. Turning on automatic updates will ensure that you are always equipped with the latest security patches.
  • Be selective about what information you share. When chatting with fellow users on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, it’s important you’re always careful of sharing personal data. Never exchange financial information or crucial personal details over the app, as they can possibly be stolen in the chance your device does become compromised with spyware or other malware.
  • Protect your mobile phones from spyware. To help prevent your device from becoming compromised by malicious software, such as this WhatsApp spyware, be sure to add an extra layer of security to it by leveraging a mobile security solution. With McAfee Mobile Security being available for both iOS and Android, devices of all types will remain protected from cyberthreats.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Wi-Fi Woes: Android Hotspot App Leaves 2 Million Passwords Exposed

Logging onto a free Wi-Fi network can be tempting, especially when you’re out running errands or waiting to catch a flight at the airport. But this could have serious cybersecurity consequences. One popular Android app, which allowed anyone to search for nearby Wi-Fi networks, was recently left exposed, leaving a database containing over 2 million network passwords unprotected.

How exactly were these passwords exposed? The app, which had been downloaded by millions of users, allowed anyone to search for Wi-Fi networks in their area. The app also lets users upload their Wi-Fi network passwords from their devices to its database for others to use. When the database was left exposed and unprotected, anyone could access and download its contents. Each record in the database contained the Wi-Fi network name, its precise geolocation, its basic service set identifier, and the network password in plaintext. Because the app didn’t require users to obtain permission from the network owner, it would be quite easy for a cybercriminal to modify router settings and point unsuspecting users to malicious websites. What’s more, a threat actor could also read unencrypted traffic that goes across a wireless network, allowing them to steal passwords and private data.

Thankfully, the web host was able to take down the database containing the Wi-Fi passwords within a day of being notified. But it’s important for users to be aware of the cybersecurity implications that free or public Wi-Fi presents. Check out the following tips to help protect your data:

  • Change your Wi-Fi password. If you think your password may have been affected by this exposure, err on the side of caution and reset it. Be sure to make your new password complex and unique.
  • Keep your network password private. Wi-Fi networks could be susceptible to a number of threats if their passwords are left in the wrong hands. Only share your passwords with family, friends, and those you trust, and never upload your password to a public database for strangers to use.
  • Safeguard your online privacy. Use a security solution like McAfee Safe Connect to encrypt your online activity, protect your privacy by hiding your IP address, and better defend against cybercriminals.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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The “Nasty List” Phishing Scam Is out to Steal Your Instagram Login

How often do you check your social media accounts? According to a recent study, internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking platforms. Since users are pretty reliant on social media, cybercriminals use it as an avenue to target victims with various cyberattacks. The latest social media scheme called “The Nasty List” scams users into giving up their Instagram credentials and uses their accounts to further promote the phishing scam.

So, how exactly do hackers trick innocent users into handing over their login information? Cybercriminals spread this scam by sending messages through hacked accounts to the user’s followers, stating that they were spotted on a “Nasty List.” These messages will read something like “OMG your actually on here, @TheNastyList_34, your number is 15! its really messed up.” If the recipient visits the profile listed in the message, they will see a link in the profile description. An example of one URL that has been listed in these scam profiles is nastylist-instatop50[.]me. The user is tricked into believing that this link will supposedly allow them to see why they are on this list. This link brings up what appears to be a legitimate Instagram login page. When the victim enters their credentials on the fake login page, the cybercriminals behind this scheme will be able to take over the account and use it to further promote the scam.

Images courtesy of Bleeping Computer.
Images courtesy of Bleeping Computer.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps Instagram users can take to ensure that they don’t fall victim to this trap. Check out the following tips:

  • Be skeptical of messages from unknown users. If you receive a message from someone you don’t know, it’s best to ignore the message altogether or block the user. Additionally, if you think a friend’s social media account has been compromised, look out for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in their message, which are common in these scams.
  • Exercise caution when inspecting links sent to your messages. Always inspect a URL before you click on it. In the case of this scam, the URL that appears with the fake login page is clearly incorrect, as it ends in a [.]me.
  • Reset your password. If your account was hacked by ‘The Nasty List’ but you still have access to your account, reset your password to regain control of your account.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post The “Nasty List” Phishing Scam Is out to Steal Your Instagram Login appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home

Like most parents, before you go to sleep each night, you take extra care to lock doors and windows to keep your family safe from any outside threats. The only thing you may have overlooked is the smartphone illuminated on your nightstand. And if you were to add up the smartphones humming all over your house, suddenly you’d have a number of unlocked doors that a determined criminal could enter through. Maybe not tonight — but eventually.

Digital Ecosystem

Over time you’ve purchased and plugged in devices throughout your home. You might have a voice assistant, a baby monitor, a thermostat, a treadmill, a gaming system, a fitness watch, smart TVs, a refrigerator, and many other fun, useful gadgets. Each purchase likely connects to your smartphone. Take stock: You now have a digital ecosystem growing all around you. And while you rarely stop to take notice of this invisible power grid around you, hackers can’t stop thinking about it.

This digital framework that pulsates within your home gives cybercriminals potential new entryways into your life and your data. Depending on your devices, by accessing your smartphone, outsiders may be able to unlock your literal doors while you are away (via your home security system), eavesdrop on your family conversations and collect important information (via your voice assistant), access financial information (via your gaming system, tablet, or laptop).

What you can do:

  • Change factory security settings. Before you fire up that smart TV, drone, or sound system, be sure to change each product’s factory settings and replace it with a bulletproof password to put a layer of protection between you and would-be hackers.
  • Protect your home network. We are connected people living in connected homes. So, part of the wired lifestyle is taking the lead on doing all we can to protect it. One way to do that is at the router level with built-in network security, which can help secure your connected devices.
  • Stay on top of software updates. Cybercrooks rely on consumers to ignore software updates; it makes their job so much easier. So be sure to install updates to your devices, security software, and IoT products when alerted to do so.

Smartphone = Front Gate

The most common entry point to all of these connected things is your smartphone. While you’ve done a lot of things to protect your phone — a lock screen, secure passwords on accounts, and system updates — there are hacking tactics you likely know nothing about. According to McAfee’s recent  Mobile Threat Report, you don’t know because the scope and complexity of mobile hacks are increasing at alarming rates.

Hidden Apps

The latest statistics report that the average person has between 60-90 apps installed on their phones. Multiply that between all the users in your home, and you are looking at anywhere from 200-500 apps living under your digital roof. Hackers gravitate toward digital trends. They go where the most people congregate because that’s where they can grab the most money. Many of us control everything in our homes from our apps, so app downloads are off the charts, which is why crooks have engineered some of their most sophisticated schemes specifically around app users.

Hidden apps are a way that crooks trick users into letting them inside their phones. Typically, hidden apps (such as TimpDoor) get to users via Google Play when they download games or customized tools. TimpDoor will then directly communicate with users via a text with a link to a voice message that gives detailed instructions to enable apps from unknown sources. That link downloads malware which will run in the background after the app closes. Users often forget they’ve downloaded this and go on with life while the malware runs in the background and can access other internal networks on the smartphone.

What you can do:

  • Stay alert. Don’t fall for the traps or click links to other apps sent via text message.
  • Stay legit. Only download apps hosted by the original trusted stores and verified partner sites.
  • Avoid spam. Don’t click on any email links, pop-ups, or direct messages that include suspicious links, password prompts, or fake attachments. Delete and block spam emails and texts.
  • Disable and delete. If you are not using an app, disable it. And, as a safety habit, remove apps from your phone, tablet, or laptop you no longer use.

Fake Apps

Again, crooks go where the most people congregate, and this year it is the 60 million+ downloaded game Fortnite. The Fortnite craze has lead hackers to design fake Fortnite apps masquerading as the real thing. The fraudulent app designers go to great lengths to make the download look legitimate. They offer enticing downloads and promise users a ton of free perks and add ons. Once users download the fake app, crooks can collect money through ads, send text messages with more bad app links, crypto jack users, or install malware or spyware.

What you can do:

  • Don’t install apps from unknown sources. Not all gaming companies distribute via Google Play or the App Store. This makes it even harder for users to know that the app they are downloading is legit. Do all you can to verify the legitimacy of the site you are downloading from.
  • Delete suspicious acting apps. If you download an app and it begins to request access to anything outside of its service, delete it immediately from your device.
  • Update devices regularly. Keep new bugs and threats at bay by updating your devices automatically.
  • Monitor bank statements. Check statements regularly to monitor the activity of the card linked to your Fortnite account. If you notice repeat or multiple transactions from your account or see charges that you don’t recognize, alert your bank immediately.
  • Be a savvy app user. Verify an app’s legitimacy. Read other user reviews and be discerning before you download anything. This practice also applies to partner sites that sell game hacks, credits, patches, or virtual assets players use to gain rank within a game. Beware of “free” downloads and avoid illegal file-sharing sites. Free downloads can be hotbeds for malware. Stick with the safer, paid options from a reputable source.

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Basic Android Apps Are Charging High Subscription Fees With Deceptive Tactics

Free apps have a lot of appeal for users. They don’t cost a cent and can help users complete tasks on-the-go. However, users should take precautions before installing any app on their device. Researchers here at McAfee have observed some Android apps using extremely deceptive techniques to try and trick users into signing up for a very expensive service plan to use basic tool functionalities like voice recording and opening zip files.

The two apps being called into question, “Voice recorder free” and “Zip File Reader,” have been downloaded over 600,000 times combined. So at first glance, users may assume that these are reputable apps. Once installed, they offer the user an option to use a “Free trial” or to “Pay now.” If the user selects the trial version, they are presented with a subscription page to enter their credit card details for when the three-day trial is over. However, these apps charge a ridiculously high amount once the trial is up. “Voice recorder free” charges a whopping $242 a month and “Zip File Reader” charges $160 a week.

Users who have downloaded these apps and then deleted them after their free trial may be surprised to know that uninstalling the app will not cancel the subscription, so they could still be charged these astronomical amounts for weeks without realizing it. While this is not technically illegal, it is a deceptive tactic that app developers are using to try to make an easy profit off of consumers who might forget to cancel their free trial.

With that said, there are a few things users can do to avoid becoming victim to deceptive schemes such as these in the future. Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to downloading free apps:

  • Be vigilant and read app reviews. Even if an app has a lot of downloads, make sure to comb through all of the reviews and read up before downloading anything to your device.
  • Read the fine print. If you decide to install an app with a free trial, make sure you understand what fees you will be charged if you keep the subscription.
  • Remember to cancel your subscription. If you find a reputable free app that you’ve researched and want to use for a trial period, remember to cancel the subscription before uninstalling the app off your device. Instructions on canceling, pausing, and changing a subscription can be found on Google Play’s Help page.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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