image: Avast

Avast Antivirus users who value their privacy may want to switch to another solution, pronto. According to a joint investigation by Vice’s Motherboard and PCMag, the “free” program is being used by Avast Software (and its subsidiary, AVG) as a tool for harvesting information that can be sold to third parties.

This information comprises rather sensitive web browsing data, such as site history, click habits, and how a user moves between pages. Specifics include “Google searches, lookups of locations and GPS coordinates on Google Maps, people visiting companies’ LinkedIn pages, particular YouTube videos, and people visiting porn websites.”

Despite the lack of names and other personal identifiers, experts claim that the data is thorough enough to deanonymize users. Motherboard, for one, was able to determine the exact date and time that a site was visited, as well as search terms and videos watched on certain pages (e.g., YouPorn, PornHub).

Avast and AVG’s shady collection practices aren’t actually new, as the companies were caught harvesting data with its “Online Security” browser extensions and “Secure Browser” in October last year. This information was being sold by Jumpshot, a subsidiary offering traffic data from “100 million global online shoppers and 20 million global app users.”

Avast later apologized and claimed that it would be discontinuing this practice, but apparently, the company has merely replaced its extensions and browser with its antivirus programs as the collection tools of choice. While users have to opt-in to data collection, there’s no indication that their information could be sold.

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11 Comments

  1. Avast “used” to be good as a solution. I can control the amount of telemetry with Windows Defender, so maybe it’s time to make the switch.

  2. Free av has all gone down hill. I get that free has to have a catch, but they’re going all in on data collection, ads, nuisance ads, pushing fear… I just started installing hardware solutions to my network and creating a commercial scale lock down on my personal/kids computers. The av product is as much a virus now as viruses used to be.

    I even had a paid sub to a few that got canceled due to pop ups that I couldn’t turn off and pushy fear tactics to get me to “need” a better version. F that.

  3. My level of shock and amazement that this free product wold be gathering data about me is beyond comparison.

    I think I blinked.

    Though it is sad that a security company would be doing this.

  4. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 9727, member: 215″]
    Though it is sad that a security company would be doing this.
    [/QUOTE]

    Even the cereal companies are getting into this business. The whole “Box Tops for Education” thing is in process of migrating from snipping a generic piece of cardboard from a box you got and sending in to your kids school for them to get free money over to a you must scan your receipt for the item into our app, make sure to include store info and how much you paid, along with everything else you purchased for your school to get credit. At least they state in their privacy policy that they’ll use it for their own marketing initiatives and of course, they may pair it with data bought about you from data brokers and such…

  5. [QUOTE=”David_Schroth, post: 9725, member: 1″]
    If you’re not paying for the product then you’re the product….
    [/QUOTE]
    If you are paying for the product you are still most likely the product, why would the abandon the data their software is already designed to collect?

  6. [QUOTE=”David_Schroth, post: 9738, member: 1″]
    Even the cereal companies are getting into this business. The whole “Box Tops for Education” thing is in process of migrating from snipping a generic piece of cardboard from a box you got and sending in to your kids school for them to get free money over to a you must scan your receipt for the item into our app, make sure to include store info and how much you paid, along with everything else you purchased for your school to get credit. At least they state in their privacy policy that they’ll use it for their own marketing initiatives and of course, they may pair it with data bought about you from data brokers and such…
    [/QUOTE]
    Didn’t know about that. My wife has occasionally saved some to give her co-workers that are parents. Bummer.

  7. I still use MalwareBytes free. Nice thing is that periodically they release a build update that provides full functionality for a limited time. Downside is that recently they’ve begun requiring email confirmation for the install.

  8. Here’s something interesting from nearly a year ago. Also about Avast.
    [URL]https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/new-astaroth-trojan-variant-exploits-anti-malware-software-to-steal-info/[/URL]

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