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Avast Products => Avast Free Antivirus / Premium Security (legacy Pro Antivirus, Internet Security, Premier) => Topic started by: kenny556 on October 23, 2014, 01:17:59 AM

Title: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: kenny556 on October 23, 2014, 01:17:59 AM
http://www.howtogeek.com/199829/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/

I am speechless!!!!!!!!!!!! :o :o :o >:( >:( >:(
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Eddy on October 23, 2014, 01:51:58 AM
I'm not.
All this information is already mentioned on the avast website.
Guess they didn't read it and also not the EULA.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Vlk on October 23, 2014, 02:19:41 AM
Thank you Kenny. The article contains a lot of incorrect information and mixes some facts together (such as the traffic generated by SafePrice and the traffic generated by the URL and antiphishing requests). We are preparing a more concise answer, please stay tuned.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: kenny556 on October 23, 2014, 03:43:02 PM
Yes an explanation would be good?
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: hayc59 on October 23, 2014, 08:23:43 PM
VLK thank you cant wait :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: dlp69 on October 24, 2014, 04:43:59 PM
We wouldn't want this to slip from the front page would we...
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Vlk on October 24, 2014, 05:10:06 PM
A couple of days ago, howtogeek.com published an article about Avast and accused us of spying on our users. Given that the article contains a number of inaccuracies I feel it is necessary to react. As these are some pretty serious allegations, I also hope that we will be given some room on their site to defend ourselves. We requested the opportunity to discuss the author’s findings, but he declined to do so.
 
The article basically says that Avast used the SafePrice browser extension to spy on its users. That the SafePrice extension (which they first call “adware”) collects all URLs that the user visits, and then sends them to the cloud, together with a user ID. To demonstrate the problem, they used Fiddler (a free browser monitoring tool) to dissect the requests being generated by SafePrice and found the user ID in some of the requests, concluding that the product is “spying”. Finally, they say that all of this was true up until last week when we made SafePrice a standalone extension (removed it from the main Avast Online Security extension).
 
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
 
Now, regarding Avast SafePrice. SafePrice searches the web and offers its users the best price possible when shopping online from sites we trust, safeguarding users from possible online scams. While formerly the user had to do research and visit price comparison portals, SafePrice now offers automated help to find the best and trustworthy offerings. Avast SafePrice sends data to our server regarding the products our users are looking for and the URLs they are visiting. All personally identifiable information is stripped in real time, so the shopping data is completely anonymous. Again, I don’t think this can come as a surprise to anyone – I mean, did you expect SafePrice to have all the product IDs and all the offers stored locally? That just doesn’t make sense at all.
 
Originally, SafePrice was indeed part of the main Avast browser extension (as the article suggests). However, as most of the people in this forum know, in July 2014 we changed the strategy and moved it to a separate extension. The installation of this extension is now completely voluntary (on an opt-in basis) and its presence doesn’t influence Avast’s efficiency to block malicious sites. Since we have made this change, SafePrice accumulated almost 3 million installs just from the Chrome Web Store alone and became the most popular shopping extension for Chrome.
 
By the way, the other allegation was that Avast pushes SafePrice while recommending that users remove other similar browser extensions via Avast Browser Cleanup (BCU). I have explicitly checked our BCU database of community ratings and found that all the major shopping extensions, including PriceBlink, InvisibleHand, Shoptimate, and Groupon have good ratings and are not recommended for removal by BCU. Only those that our community of users have assessed as poor are so recommended.
 
One of the other issues raised by the article was whether the user ID is PII (personally identifiable information) or not, and why it is being transferred. The Avast user ID is a random, machine-generated ID that is created during the installation of the product. So by itself, it is certainly not a piece of PII. And the reason we include it in the request is because context is very important. The efficacy of a security product is severely limited if requests are done without a context, i.e., if it is not possible to tie them together into a “stream”. And in the case of SafePrice, we use the user ID just to be able to count our active users. In general, we really don’t see anything bad in doing this, in fact, if we were, we would have probably tried to hide what we’re doing in some way – while, as the author of the article uncovered quite easily using Fiddler, the user ID is there just as a regular json field. Which makes me even more frustrated, as it is very likely that if we actually made the field less noticeable, the article probably wouldn’t have been written. We’re not trying to hide anything.
 
Now, the key is not only what information is collected, but also what is done with the collected information and how the user is informed about the collection process. Avast is committed to protecting its customers on all fronts, which is why we inform our users, even beyond our EULA and Privacy policy, that their browsing information will be collected but stripped of personally identifiable information and used to improve services, such as online web security. We actually tried to make this very, very explicit, and that’s why we have the screen (attached) in the Avast installer.
 
As you can see, the title of the screen says “Please Don’t Skip This – Read it Carefully”. Honestly, I don’t know how to make it more explicit than this.
 

If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: RejZoR on October 24, 2014, 05:43:54 PM
Thx for explnanation Vlk. Btw, i assume SafePrice is standalone only for Chrome, because for Firefox i still have it inside AOS settings. Not sure if it was pre-checked or not though, but it's still there.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: schmidthouse on October 24, 2014, 06:12:00 PM
Yes, I don't see anything out of line (sinister) here at all. I'm sure some may,
The added Screen certainly informed the user of intentions
No worries  :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: hayc59 on October 24, 2014, 07:44:49 PM
VLK..thank you
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 24, 2014, 08:17:51 PM
Thanks for the explanation.
The author may not have wanted this printed but there's always another way to get the message across:
http://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/20550/26?u=bob3160 (http://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/20550/26?u=bob3160)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: YLAP on October 24, 2014, 08:25:36 PM
I've never believed in that stuff a) because it was incorrect b) I've trusted avast more than 10Y and it served me well, why should I believe  8) c) people, read the information in the setup

And VLK, thanks for even more detailed explanation :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Lisandro on October 24, 2014, 08:43:17 PM
Thanks Vlk. Sad that the author does not want to discuss.
Anyway, I will be thinking twice (or more) on recommending Howtogeek for now on (if they don't change their policy).
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: YLAP on October 24, 2014, 08:54:17 PM
It is in their FB too. And I was not able to be so gentle as Bob was commenting this  >:(
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 24, 2014, 09:30:57 PM
It is in their FB too. And I was not able to be so gentle as Bob was commenting this  >:(
They did reply to my post and claim that they were never contacted by Avast:
http://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/20550/28?u=bob3160 (http://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/20550/28?u=bob3160)


Being gentle is just a way to catch them with honey before you kill them with insecticide. :)

Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: VanguardLH on October 24, 2014, 09:35:14 PM
I think you should join that discussion (using a disposable e-mail address or alias) to post your response.  But then that just might fan the flames over there while the author grins in having an even more active discussion.  You want to defend yourself but instead the ignorants giggle and pee.
(Update: I see someone posted a link there to this thread.) 

Although you try to make it evident regarding the usage policy, the problem is with lazy users.  How many actually read the EULA presented to them during an installation?  I recall 2 products that I aborted their installs because I didn't agree with the EULA.  Most users don't the EULA.  They're too lazy.  Reading skills have waned.  Maybe the EULAs should be animated and show cartoon characters explaining it, like in Jurassic Park (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMsJe3TymqY).  Alas, anything longer than 8 seconds will get skipped (http://www.statisticbrain.com/attention-span-statistics/).  It's obvious the author (and his immediate respondents) never read the EULA or anything in the install screens.  Click, click, click is all they do.  If you want to upset them or slow them down, just put a borderless Next button at the top middle of the screen instead of at the usual bottom right location.  I've seen some EULA screens that, at least, require the user to scroll to the bottom of the EULA window before the Next button gets enabled.

"in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer."

WOT (Web of Trust) and McAfee SiteAdvisor would have to do the same thing. After all, somehow they would have to see to where you visit to know what reputation to return to you.  Yet one respondent to the article mentioned he would switch to WOT.  Not a clue has he.  By the way, if you ever bothered to join WOT and then looked at the comments on why some users rated a site the way they did, you'd realize that WOT is worthless.  Too much retaliation and too many ignorant raters.  Besides, you usually get a non-descript yellow alert (unrated site) because the vast majority of sites are not listed in their database.  They have 10 million sites rated out of 1 billion for all of 1% coverage (http://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-survey/) and with ratings by inexpert users.  It didn't take but a few days to drop WOT after seeing mostly yellow markers and reading inane comments by raters.  The spam/scam/phish sites go dead in a few days as the cybercriminals are constantly rotating through new domains while trying to push traffic to them during their short lifespan.  I've deemed web reputation as worthless.  I don't install the one in Avast, either.

These boobs probably don't even know all the sites they visit are collecting similar information from them, like using Google Analytics.  Someone tweaks their ears about Avast and since it's news to them then they're obviously ignorant about all the other sites collecting metrics on them.  They want to revert to 1994 but forget how there wasn't much "web" back then.  Someone every few years regurgitates the Flash cookie scare while totally ignorant of DOM storage in all web browsers.  Searching the web for information has become a practiced art in knowing what to cull out as crap.  Many aren't even datestamped so you can't determine their relevancy. 

Ever see that commercial where the gal is waiting for her date to show up who is a French model because he said so on the Internet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-pHe879l60).  The sad part is there are a LOT of netizens just as dumb.  The scammers love 'em.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: YLAP on October 24, 2014, 09:35:36 PM
They did reply to my post and claim that they were never contacted by Avast:
http://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/20550/28?u=bob3160 (http://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/avast-antivirus-was-spying-on-you-with-adware-until-this-week/20550/28?u=bob3160)

I am still not convinced by their answer, does not sound solid  ::)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: RejZoR on October 24, 2014, 09:50:09 PM
I just find it funny how they attack avast! just because they had nothing to hide and left the ID there visible to the user. I bet 3/4 of other vendors collect more data with unique ID's as well and submit all of it in an encrypted stream of data to their cloud. But since they can't exactly catch it with a Notepad, it's somehow not their problem and they don't get bothered by that fact. They just seem to jump at avast!.

All this noise sure generated a lot of traffic on their webpage... Like i said, sensational news is sensational. They weren't after the truth really, they just want the clicks and visitors... If they were after the truth, they'd inspect other vendors as well, but they just couldn't be bothered with that...
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: steckler on October 24, 2014, 10:38:33 PM
Folks, let's not crucify Howtogeek either, his heart is in the right place and many individual points in the article are accurate. Our issue is that it then draws a nefarious conclusion instead of a more innocent conclusion. After the article came out, we requested a call with him for myself and possibly Ondrej to understand his research, discuss it, etc. Initially this was accepted and we set a time.

A few hours later, we got an email cancelling it. Here is that message in total: "Upon further consideration, I believe there is little value in having a meeting with the CEO and COO of Avast at this time.  The article written is based entirely on documented research and analysis over a lengthy timeframe and How-To Geek stands by this article. How-To Geek's single objective is to provide information that will help the users. Avast is free to publish any statement regarding their product or respond to our article."

The point he has recently complained about is we did not state that he invited us to make a public statement. As you see, in the last paragraph he did do that. However, I found it unusual that he thought we needed his permission to make a public statement and thus did not acknowledge that "permission". We of course did make one which you read from Ondrej.

As a company we try our best to be honest and straightforward with our users. Can we do better? Of course and that is why we constantly make changes in what we do. The fact of the matter though is that all purveyors of free products need to make money and we try various initiatives to do so. Some work and some do not. But in all cases, we ensure our users and their data are not abused. For example, we have totally stayed away from advertising which many of our competitors with toolbars are heavily into.

Howtogeeks surely supports themselves with advertising. From what I see that advertising involves both targeting and retargeting. When I visit the site, I see ads from Bitdefender and AVG, an advertisement for a somewhat scammy PC cleanup product/service, and a huge banner ad for Norton. These ads are probably all based on the content of the article--antivirus. But, there is also an advertisement for flights to Argentina and for OpenTable. These came from re-targeting as I was searching for such flights yesterday as we are going there for the 2015 product launch and I was making dinner reservations on OpenTable for a dinner with my wife. Now, these ads are surely all served up by the Google ad networks and Howtogeeks probably has little or no involvement in what ads are placed but many argue that advertising retargeting violates the privacy of the user (as the user when visiting the website gets no notification that their past browsing behavior will be examined and relevant ads served) and the advertising of scammy services on such a trusted site gives the scams an aura of credibility.

But the point here is Safeprice. Is it perfect? Of course not. Are we hiding anything? Of course not. Will we improve it? Of course. In anything we do though, we will be open and will not abuse the trust of our users.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Charyb on October 24, 2014, 10:53:42 PM
I never could understand why a shopping extension was introduced into a browser safety and web reputation extension. Think about it.

Anyway, thanks for the heads-up.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Alikhan on October 24, 2014, 11:11:48 PM
I never could understand why a shopping extension was introduced into a browser safety and web reputation extension.

+1.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Para-Noid on October 24, 2014, 11:49:18 PM
@ Vincent and Ondrej

Thank you for the explanation. It's sad when an author writes something then does not allow feedback
from whom they are attacking. They hide behind their bylines without doing proper research. The author
should have shown better reporting ethics and spoken with avast before writing and publishing. The fact
that he doesn't want to report the complete story shows that they lack any understanding of ethical
reporting. Maybe he's afraid he will be forced by facts to write, if nothing else, a partial retraction including
a public apology to avast.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Salabim on October 24, 2014, 11:53:21 PM
Welcome to the wonderful world of commercial companies offering "Free" stuff. ;)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: NoelC on October 25, 2014, 07:00:06 AM
I never could understand why a shopping extension was introduced into a browser safety and web reputation extension. Think about it.
+2

-Noel
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: RejZoR on October 25, 2014, 08:08:32 AM
Well, i didn't particularly like it at first but then i thought, why not. If it offers me cheaper price which everyone usually goes after if possible, it can be useful. But my main problem with SafePrice is that it's not very accurate if at all.

Whenever it offered me a lower price, it was indeed lower. But that was because it showed me a completely different model, a model that had nothing to do with what i was interested in originally. Sure you can maybe find an interesting alternative for what you've been looking but i'm interested in lower price for a particular model and not something roughly similar. And so far SafePrice didn't deliver what i was expecting from it. That was few months ago. And i've just tested it now, if i look at all the offers it shows me, only few were actually for the same model and 3/4 of the rest for some others. That's like wanting a tuna sandwitch and then you get offered a cheaper spam sandwitch. It's cheaper but not quite what you were looking for...
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Lisandro on October 25, 2014, 01:37:22 PM
When I visit the site, I see ads from Bitdefender and AVG, an advertisement for a somewhat scammy PC cleanup product/service, and a huge banner ad for Norton.
I'm writting as an user, an old user :)
Should I trust in such ethics? Ads from the "competence"? Is it independent? No.

"Upon further consideration, I believe there is little value in having a meeting with the CEO and COO of Avast at this time."
No dialog. No trust.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 25, 2014, 03:20:37 PM
When I visit the site, I see ads from Bitdefender and AVG, an advertisement for a somewhat scammy PC cleanup product/service, and a huge banner ad for Norton.
I'm writting as an user, an old user :)
Should I trust in such ethics? Ads from the "competence"? Is it independent? No.

"Upon further consideration, I believe there is little value in having a meeting with the CEO and COO of Avast at this time."
No dialog. No trust.
No dialog also mean a one sided love affair. :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: thekochs on October 25, 2014, 03:37:05 PM
Avast has earned my trust by being solid over the years....and I don't give that out lightly.
I expect as FREE user that things are compensated by other efforts.
My line in sand is that these efforts don't interfere with the integrity of my PC but I expect some level of data gathering, ad pushes, etc. This "price" comes with my ability to use a terrific product for free.
Do I like/agree with all the other non-A/V stuff Avast is doing ?....no....but I understand why and the trade-off.
I am thankful Avast provides the custom install and is up front in features and efforts.
As noted, just don't install what you are not comfortable with.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: schmidthouse on October 25, 2014, 05:25:15 PM
The Fact that "every" Shield and "every" Component/Module can be installed or uninstalled at the users command is far ahead of other AV solutions that don't offer suggest customizable installations. :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Asyn on October 25, 2014, 05:46:29 PM
The Fact that "every" Shield and "every" Component/Module can be installed or uninstalled at the users command is far ahead of other AV solutions that don't offer suggest customizable installations. :)
+1 :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Techknow on October 27, 2014, 11:43:05 PM
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
... If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk

Can you expand on this a little?  Three questions:
  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?
  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?
  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 28, 2014, 12:09:12 AM
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
... If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk

Can you expand on this a little?  Three questions:
  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?
  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?
  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?
If you are so suspicious of Avast's activity, why are you using it ? Are you actually using Avast ???
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Techknow on October 28, 2014, 03:30:49 AM
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
... If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk

Can you expand on this a little?  Three questions:
  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?
  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?
  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?
If you are so suspicious of Avast's activity, why are you using it ? Are you actually using Avast ???

Bob, you really are doing a disservice to Avast and the community with your nonsense posts.

Nowhere did I say I was suspicious.  I simply asked a few simple questions to understand how Avast software works and what data is sent from systems on which Avast is installed.  These are very reasonable questions to anyone who is reasonable.

I would appreciate it if you restrain yourself and do not respond to any posts I write.  I do not find your responses helpful.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Charyb on October 28, 2014, 03:39:35 AM
This is fairly detailed.


http://www.avast.com/privacy-policy (http://www.avast.com/privacy-policy)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: jraju on October 28, 2014, 05:13:46 AM
Hi, I do not find anything wrong in asking reasonable question to the forum as techknow clarifies.
          I also think that some members use extreme language, when posting like the one , questioning why one should use avast ?
               There must be moderators to check the posts, before publishing as unwanted posts may create healthy community forum subjects becoming non relevant.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 28, 2014, 12:49:51 PM
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
... If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk

Can you expand on this a little?  Three questions:
  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?
  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?
  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?
If you are so suspicious of Avast's activity, why are you using it ? Are you actually using Avast ???

Bob, you really are doing a disservice to Avast and the community with your nonsense posts.

Nowhere did I say I was suspicious.  I simply asked a few simple questions to understand how Avast software works and what data is sent from systems on which Avast is installed.  These are very reasonable questions to anyone who is reasonable.

I would appreciate it if you restrain yourself and do not respond to any posts I write.  I do not find your responses helpful.
Simple question, are you using Avast ??? If so, which version ???
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: RejZoR on October 28, 2014, 01:29:53 PM
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
... If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk

Can you expand on this a little?  Three questions:
  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?
  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?
  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?

All AV's that perform URL blocking send ALL URL addresses to HQ for mathcing against blacklists. It's the only way to make URL blokcing super effective because it will become effective the moment virus lab releases a blacklisted entry. Unlike with local bases that are updated hourly or even less often. There is no way going around this fact. Either you have to submit the URL's to them or you won't have a good protection.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 28, 2014, 01:40:00 PM
Cloud service = Sending information to a server.
Without Cloud service you would depend on static protection.
The cloud service or the server is constantly updated by information which is fed to it by
all members of the Avast Community. This gives you as up to date protection as possible.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: jraju on October 28, 2014, 02:23:13 PM
Hi, Bob
                     I use only Avast and the recent reported activity cause concern to clarify. That is it
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Techknow on October 28, 2014, 06:07:22 PM
Let me start by saying that Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality. That is, in the particular case of URL scanning, we do transfer the URL the user is visiting, together with additional metadata to the Avast cloud, which then does the necessary processing and synchronously returns the answer. By scanning URLs in the cloud, Avast is able to detect malicious activity, from viruses and malware, phishing and hacking. You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service.
... If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Thanks,
Vlk

Can you expand on this a little?  Three questions:
  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?
  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?
  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?

All AV's that perform URL blocking send ALL URL addresses to HQ for mathcing against blacklists. It's the only way to make URL blokcing super effective because it will become effective the moment virus lab releases a blacklisted entry. Unlike with local bases that are updated hourly or even less often. There is no way going around this fact. Either you have to submit the URL's to them or you won't have a good protection.

This is not true.  Avast has implemented very effective "streaming" updates which keep your LOCAL anti-virus databases current.  With Avast's streaming updates, there is no need to send everything that needs to be scanned to someone else's server.

You seem to be claiming that in order for the core functionality of Avast to work, that every URL you visit is sent to Avast.  I doubt that is true, but it might be, and I would like to hear an answer directly from Avast.

Even Google, a company notorious for collecting data about millions of people, sends their blacklists directly to the clients so that every URL that is visited is not sent to Google.

Frankly, the obvious overposters on this forum are so hyper-emotional and defensive that they prevent real customers from understanding important information about Avast products.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Pondus on October 28, 2014, 06:26:53 PM
Quote
.You seem to be claiming that in order for the core functionality of Avast to work, that every URL you visit is sent to Avast.  I doubt that is true, but it might be, and I would like to hear an answer directly from Avast.     
Then read the post from vlk

Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on October 28, 2014, 06:33:28 PM
I've reported this to the Moderators which will hopefully result in a reply from Avast.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Techknow on October 28, 2014, 07:02:37 PM
Quote
.You seem to be claiming that in order for the core functionality of Avast to work, that every URL you visit is sent to Avast.  I doubt that is true, but it might be, and I would like to hear an answer directly from Avast.     
Then read the post from vlk

Ugh.  Are you trolling?

Clearly, I did read the post from Vlk (I quoted it), but it is a bit unclear.  Vlk talks about 'URL scanning'.  It is unclear if this only occurs as part of a browser extension or part of Avast core functionality.  I think it is just part of the optional browser extension, and have requested clarification.

I'm starting to understand why this forum has such a bad reputation.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: schmidthouse on October 28, 2014, 07:07:16 PM
Clarify please, Bad Reputation with whom?
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Vlk on October 30, 2014, 09:58:36 AM
Sorry for the late reply guys.

  (1) Which Avast browser extensions send every URL people visit to Avast?

Both (Avast Online Security and Avast SafePrice). Although in case of SafePrice itself, we will likely change it to send domains only for non-shopping sites.

  (2) Is the entire URL sent including URL parameters (generally the portion after the question mark in the URL)?

Kind of. There is some elementary stripping done in the extension, but then a more comprehensive one done on the backend.

  (3) If the Avast browser extensions are disabled, but all the Avast shields are enabled, are any URLs or filenames sent to Avast?

Yes, absolutely. For example, the pathname and hash of every EXE you're executing (that's "FileRep"). Often accompanied by additional metadata, including the URL the file was downloaded from. And there is more occurences like this.

Again, this is what's usually referred to as "cloud AV". It uses the cloud part of the engine to do at least part of the heavylifting. And of course, this is only possible if the requests are sufficiently rich.

I an quite certain that's what all good AVs do these days.

This is not true.  Avast has implemented very effective "streaming" updates which keep your LOCAL anti-virus databases current.  With Avast's streaming updates, there is no need to send everything that needs to be scanned to someone else's server.

This is true, Avast is still what I call a "hybrid" AV. That is, it relies on the cloud but still keeps a good database locally to allow it to make some good decisions even in the offline scenarios. With that said, the cloud part is getting more and more important for us. Nothing can beat the power of big data and to cope with today's threats, it is really almost impossible to realy on local definitions only. Not to mention that even the creation of those local definitions now absolutely relies on the data that we receive from our users, through channels like discussed above.

You seem to be claiming that in order for the core functionality of Avast to work, that every URL you visit is sent to Avast.  I doubt that is true, but it might be, and I would like to hear an answer directly from Avast.

Well, again, the basic mechanism is quite simple here: the URLs is sent to the cloud to be checked. The local database does part of that job, but some parts of the logic are cloud only and need to be cloud only.

Even Google, a company notorious for collecting data about millions of people, sends their blacklists directly to the clients so that every URL that is visited is not sent to Google.

I don't think you're right here. Both Chrome and Firefox use Google SafeBrowsing API https://developers.google.com/safe-browsing/ and this is essentially the same thing as we're talking about here: a cloud-based API for real time lookups.


Thanks
Vlk
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Neels on January 20, 2015, 06:57:36 PM
So I love Avast, and I am a little bit disappointed that Avast chose to go the route of data gathering browser extensions. It's all good and well, but what about a product that integrates with your email to warn people against 419 advance fee scams. Every day useless lazy criminals exploit the stupidity of countless millions to scam them out of their hard earned money. It should be possible to create a browser extension that can scan emails for suspicious messages, traces the emails origin if possible and then displays this info to the end user. It should then also submit this info to the mail provider's abuse address and list the email in a database so that everyone can be notified about it.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Pondus on January 20, 2015, 07:04:32 PM
Quote
It should be possible to create a browser extension that can scan emails for suspicious messages, traces the emails origin if possible and then displays this info to the end user. It should then also submit this info to the mail provider's abuse address and list the email in a database so that everyone can be notified about it.
already exist .... it is called spam filter   ;)

Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: rcc on August 23, 2015, 04:52:10 PM
Yes, I know this is an old thread, but I had quit using AVAST for a few years, and have recently returned. However, this post explicitly illustrates why I quit using AVAST in the first place. You have left your roots, at least for us freebee users. I used AVAST free simply because it was fast, simple and just what was needed and only what was needed, in a world of "full service providers". At any given time we could have 100's of these little shopping programs hiding on our machines because it's a way developers can make easy money. The anti virus software products available on the market today are atrocious, I don't want to have 32GB of ram in use and all 8 cores running at 5 ghz just to run my antivirus software. I'll do my own shopping, only when I want to, not every time I open a web page just because it happens to have prices, just in case I might want to shop. Software developers need to stop hogging our resources, I don't want 100's services running in the background on my pc just in case, so if I want to use their product, it loads faster. I'm getting tired of all my applications running slower, so given applications start faster if I choose to use them.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on August 23, 2015, 04:57:42 PM
Yes, I know this is an old thread, but I had quit using AVAST for a few years, and have recently returned. However, this post explicitly illustrates why I quit using AVAST in the first place. You have left your roots, at least for us freebee users. I used AVAST free simply because it was fast, simple and just what was needed and only what was needed, in a world of "full service providers". At any given time we could have 100's of these little shopping programs hiding on our machines because it's a way developers can make easy money. The anti virus software products available on the market today are atrocious, I don't want to have 32GB of ram in use and all 8 cores running at 5 ghz just to run my antivirus software. I'll do my own shopping, only when I want to, not every time I open a web page just because it happens to have prices, just in case I might want to shop. Software developers need to stop hogging our resources, I don't want 100's services running in the background on my pc just in case, so if I want to use their product, it loads faster. I'm getting tired of all my applications running slower, so given applications start faster if I choose to use them.
Had you used a custom rather than the default install, you could have simply bypassed any additional modules that you didn't want.
You can also remove them after you've installed Avast.
If you don't like the browser add-on that gives you a 'better price', simply remove it or, dont allow it to be install ed at all.
Your computer, your choice.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: schmidthouse on August 23, 2015, 05:03:23 PM
In addition to Bob's information, Most all software programs have "Settings" options even Browser extentions, when you install a piece of software it is only prudent to review and alter/set any settings that are offered that would cause the software to function to your liking.
Familiarize yourself with what you have installed. :)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Pondus on August 23, 2015, 05:06:08 PM
How to do it ....

Avast 2015: Change, add, or remove individual program components    https://www.avast.com/faq.php?article=AVKB96#artTitle

Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: jakecommandwolf on August 25, 2015, 11:36:55 AM
Okay I think we've had just about enough of all this mindless nerco-posting, could a moderator please lock this thread?

And stop beating a dead horse, if this bothers you guys that much take the five minutes to make a new post about it.

If your first inclination is to reply to a buried thread only half way relevant to what you are posting about no one is ever going to take you seriously, nerco-posting is the mark of a child, people will treat you like one if you do it.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: 1234ava on August 25, 2015, 05:26:06 PM
I've just read Avast's explanations. I don't think they are "spying on us".

Having said that, I think there might be two kinds of issues to be dealt with.

1. The machine-generated User ID. Its purpose in the case of SafePrice, Vlk explained, is just to count active users. I believe him, as I trust Avast. Also, I do understand that Avast needs sending my visited URLs to their cloud in order to check them in real-time.

But, I would like to know, does Avast store the history of visited sites  associated with a given unique ID? If yes, for how long?


2. I am happy that Avast made SafePrice a separate product for those who really want it. While searching for the best prices may be useful to some, it's not what you would normally expect in a security product. Therefore, I didn't like that Avast installed it unless you went through custom settings, which most users normally don't review (either because they are not technically minded, or they just trust "default settings" to be optimal unless you have some special reasons to change them).
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: 1234ava on September 17, 2015, 05:33:46 PM
[...]
Originally, SafePrice was indeed part of the main Avast browser extension (as the article suggests). However, as most of the people in this forum know, in July 2014 we changed the strategy and moved it to a separate extension. The installation of this extension is now completely voluntary (on an opt-in basis) and its presence doesn’t influence Avast’s efficiency to block malicious sites. Since we have made this change, SafePrice accumulated almost 3 million installs just from the Chrome Web Store alone and became the most popular shopping extension for Chrome.

[...]

I recently installed Avast IS 2015 on a Windows 10 clean installation. Actually there was no "SafePrice" tool among Avast custom installation settings. And still there is no "SafePrice" in the Avast Repair - Change tools window.

But then, out of blue!, yesterday, SafePrice was automatically installed on my Chrome browser, without my request. See screenshot below (the pop-up message is in Italian, but it just says that another program on my PC has added the SafePrice extension and asks wheter I want to enable it or remove it).

I also use the Avast Online Security extension, which I installed a few days before I also installed Avast IS.

Fact is, I never asked for SafePrice, but it was installed all the same, even now that it is a completely separate extension.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: bob3160 on September 17, 2015, 05:52:54 PM
It was installed only because you allowed it to be installed.
Not accepting it would have prevented the installation.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: essexboy on September 17, 2015, 05:55:16 PM
You can disable that in the settings option

Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: 1234ava on September 17, 2015, 06:20:00 PM
@Essexboy
Thanks for the hint, but no, I can't. There is no "SafePrice" option in my Avast Online Security settings. See screenshot.

@Bob
Nope, I never allowed it being installed.
I even double-checked there was no SafePrice add-on when I installed Avast.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: 1234ava on September 17, 2015, 06:38:19 PM
Like Vlk wrote, SafePrice is a completely separate extension since July 2014.
According to Vlk's post, "the installation of this extension is now completely voluntary (on an opt-in basis)".

Fact is, I never opted-in, but SafePrice was installed and popped-up in my browser out of the blue.
I am reporting such behavior as a bug.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: adamlaughlin on June 20, 2016, 08:57:06 PM
Call it a necro.  I call it an ongoing issue that's been pissing people off for years, and four pages of snide remarks talking to users like they are idiots.  This topic should be a sticky link over at AVG and Avira forums.

SO!  I found this little Gem on Howtogeek.com.  I found it by going to Avast.com and trying to find the link to the forums (buried in footer,) which was a bad enough sign that I chose not to limit my browsing to Avast.com and searched for "avast advertising" to raise the subject elsewhere.  I arrive to a white collar flame war and I want to take a moment and speak on it.

See, I had just gone to my bank's web site and was then bombarded with ads for Avast up-sales IN MY BROWSER WINDOW.
They look EXACTLY like the ads on HowToGeek.com.  A lot like other AdWare tool bars (DON'T start again. It's what they are.)

I don't care if it's safeprice, safezone, safety scissors, I don't care.  I spent over an hour configuring the most fine-grained antivirus settings I possibly could.

How many times am I going to tell you people no?  And then I find this page!  So I'm going to pepper the OP with some inline aggression.  The words reached me poorly, and I want some particularly insensitive remarks to resonate.  Let's begin!

-----

"Avast’s browser extensions, together with some other modules inside Avast, rely heavily on cloud functionality."

That's how Microsoft and Google explain everything they do (when silence fails.)  Switch to Windows Defender!  Message received.

"You may not realize but collecting URL information for this very purpose is extremely common in the security industry, as this information is essential to providing this kind of service."

We do realize it.  It's common in every industry.  That's why we're asking you to protect us from it.  Why else would we be speaking to you?  And what kind of service, exactly?  Not the one we asked for.  The one we got.  Your use of pronouns is consistently deceptive throughout the piece.

"I mean, did you expect SafePrice to have all the product IDs and all the offers stored locally? That just doesn’t make sense at all."

What, like virus definitions?  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  Also, good catch, another snide remark directed at people who have yet to speak on this.

"...and became the most popular shopping extension for Chrome."

As opposed to becoming the least popular AntiVirus extension for Chrome.  Good save.  You also managed to throw an argumentum ad populum into the mix.  You've gone from trying to call me stupid, to trying to prove it (and I feel it is necessary to react.)

"So by itself, it is certainly not a piece of PII. And the reason we include it in the request is because context is very important."

By itself... we include it... you're not really trying to convince anyone, are you? By the way, "context is very important" is a statement which lacks a lot of context.  Anybody trying to reach open minds would catch that and elaborate.

"the user ID is there just as a regular json field. Which makes me even more frustrated, as it is very likely that if we actually made the field less noticeable, the article probably wouldn’t have been written. We’re not trying to hide anything."

You're not trying to hide anything?  Certainly not your own frustration that you... didn't try to hide it...

"If you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them."

I'm sure you'll find a way to continue being snide about it.  My whole point is, no amount of technical knowledge - even if you completely prove that I have no leg to stand on - can hide what you really think of us with that damn tone you all kept using on people who didn't give you the feedback you were looking for.
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: Eddy on June 21, 2016, 07:47:28 AM
This is a +/- 9 months dead thread. ;)
Title: Re: Avast Antivirus Was Spying On You with Adware (Until This Week)
Post by: moznewbie on June 21, 2016, 10:48:45 PM
I'd forgotten all about this little gem.  ;D
The shopping browser never bothered me. I just removed it. Avast keeping tabs on URLs seemed like common sense. I didn't mind Avast taking data anonymously. What bothered me were the huge unencrypted logs in Avast 9. No point having clear browser history or delete OS logs options if Avast was going to copy data insecurely on my laptop. Fortunately Avast has moved on. Water under the bridge I guess.  :)