Fake Websites, Fake Companies, Fake Everything: What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves? by@avast

Fake Websites, Fake Companies, Fake Everything: What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves?

We all know how quickly the internet has evolved and how alarming online threats have become. The more freedom our browsers allow us — and the wider online access we get — the more vulnerable we become to risks like spam emails or data breaches. Our engineers think that malware protection should act the same way, as a set of shields that protects the entire browser from any type of malware, not just traditional or external threats like typical antivirus solutions would do. That’s why we initiated Project Phalanx and built Web Shield, which offers a range of protective layers to help secure your browser.
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Avast Secure Browser Team

Avast Secure Browser is a fast, feature-packed private browser that makes protecting yourself online easy.

We all know how quickly the internet has evolved and how alarming online threats have become. The more freedom our browsers allow us — and the wider online access we get — the more vulnerable we become to risks like spam emails or data breaches.


Most of us have antivirus software installed on our computers to protect ourselves. Others, especially Mac users, often use malware protection programs to keep their devices safe.


But do we really know how to identify fake content, or what the difference between a computer virus and malware is?

So, what is malware?

Malware is short for malicious software. As other companies well put it, it is “a catch-all phrase to refer to any software designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network.


In other words, malware is software that gains unauthorized access to a computer, and there are many ways it can cause harm. It is used by hackers to launch cyberattacks against targets such as individuals, companies, or even entire networks.

Malware attacks often begin with phishing scams

Malware can infiltrate devices in a variety of ways. The most common ones that most of us are familiar with are phishing scams which can lead to devastating data breaches or destroyed computers.


To learn more about different malware strains and how they work, check out our article on the different types of malware. The more you know about malware, the better prepared you’ll be to recognize and thwart these hacker attacks.

How to protect ourselves from malware

There are many programs available that can protect us from online threats and attacks. As already mentioned, some people use antivirus software, while others use more comprehensive anti-malware systems.


In general, antivirus programs protect us from the classic types of malware — viruses, worms, trojans, and keyloggers — while anti-malware programs detect and remove new and sophisticated malicious software. In other words, the first program adds a protective layer before anything bad happens; the second program helps us clean up after an attack has happened. For the strongest level of security, many experts advise using software that provides both types of protection.


Most antivirus programs protect us from viruses, phishing scams, and other malicious scripts that may run in the background of our browser if we download suspicious files or visit unsafe websites. Some of these antivirus programs also include additional protection for an extra fee.


Anti-malware programs, for their part, are more focused on advanced and emerging threats, offering stronger protection against a wider variety of risks, including spyware, phishing, ransomware, adware, and other threats that traditional antivirus programs may not detect. Anti-malware programs update their virus definitions constantly to stay ahead of new threats, and if our device is ever compromised, they’ll remove the infection immediately.


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Learn more about malware types from our article “What Are The Different Types of Malware?


Many experts say that we need malware protection for today's newest threats along with a traditional antivirus to fight older, legacy virus strains. But other experts say that traditional antivirus is dead and only a modern, anti-malware program is now needed. We’ll leave the final decision up to you.

How we see malware

Avast Secure Browser’s new malware protection, Web Shield, is a browser-integrated system that acts as the first line of defense against malicious threats you may encounter while browsing the web. Our new technology checks every website you visit for potential malware programs, from simple adware and phishing scams to more sophisticated threats like spyware and ransomware. And it works right at your computer's primary gateway to the internet: your web browser.


Web Shield keeps you safe by notifying you of potential cyber threats, and it blocks sites from installing potentially harmful software or programs onto your computer.

Project Phalanx, or how it all started

Like the cast of the Big Bang Theory, our team of browser engineers is passionate about scientific theories, world history, and Greek philosophy and mythology.


In ancient Greece or mythology, many wartime leaders (such as Leonidas and his 300 Spartans or Jason and the Argonauts) used a specific military tactic that helped protect them from enemy attacks called “The Phalanx”.


The phalanx was a military formation made up of infantrymen armed with spears and other similar weapons. Each infantryman’s shield overlapped the one adjacent so that one shield protected both its owner and the warrior next to him. The overlap made the phalanx extremely strong and very hard to break — in fact, this type of formation was later used by Alexander the Great as well as the Legions in the Roman Empire.


Our engineers think that malware protection should act the same way, as a set of shields that protects the entire browser from any type of malware, not just traditional or external threats like typical antivirus solutions would do. That’s why we initiated Project Phalanx and built Web Shield, which offers a range of protective layers to help secure your browser.

The technical stuff, or how it actually works

Imagine a normal antivirus scanning your (encrypted) browser traffic. In order to scan that traffic, the antivirus actually has to break the secure HTTPS connection and perform a so-called man-in-the-middle attack. That means that the browser no longer talks directly to the site. Instead, it talks to the antivirus, which then (on behalf of the browser) talks to the actual site. The antivirus deciphers the received data and scans the connection’s traffic for malicious content, not just for a program.


This kind of infiltration is possible because the antivirus installs a trusted Certificate Authority (CA) on your computer that tells your browser to trust the now “broken” connection to the antivirus again. Unfortunately, this causes additional computation overhead (for deciphering the encrypted data) and slows down your computer and, as a result, your browser's speed.


By running inside the browser and not on top of the browser (like an extension or browser app), Web Shield repairs that broken connection. Web Shield can inspect all the web traffic after it’s already been deciphered correctly by the browser itself. In addition, inside the browser, Web Shield can create a complete picture of the website you’re visiting. That means it can look not only into several streams of unrelated data but also into the complete page.


In other words, with Web Shield, Avast Secure Browser can see what’s displayed in the browser, how the different data streams fit together, and exactly which event causes a specific script to be executed. That is our main advantage over the standard anti-phishing or malware protection that typical browsers offer.

By combining Web Shield with the other safety shields available in Secure Browser, you get a truly secure and private browsing experience without compromising safety or speed.


What is more with Secure Browser?

  • Web Shield

    Secure Browser's new anti-phishing and anti-malware technology acts as the first line of defense against malicious web-based threats. Our new technology leverages Avast’s best-in-class threat detection to keep you safe against phishing attacks, dangerous websites, and suspicious links and downloads. And we outperform the anti-phishing protection offered by other browsers.


  • Privacy Guard

    The new Privacy Guard combines best-in-class browser anti-fingerprinting technology with a new blocking system built directly into the browser’s core. As a result, you see outstanding performance and reduced memory consumption compared to typical browser extensions.


    The new architecture offers flexible privacy and adblocking settings, letting you block only aggressive and intrusive ads and trackers or up to 99% of all ads, effectively preventing browser fingerprinting entirely. With Privacy Guard, you’re in control of your browser and privacy.


  • Hack Check

    Hack Check is an add-on service that monitors the web to see if your email address and password have leaked. If so, Hack Check informs you immediately about the breach and advises you on how to keep your accounts safe.


Download Avast Secure Browser for free - Online safety for everyone, just browse the web you want and leave the rest to the security experts. Make the internet fun again by protecting yourself with security that outsmarts the bad guys.


by Antoinette Cocorinos, Senior Product Manager, and Thomas Salomon, Director Engineering at Avast Secure Browser Team

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