How Political Candidates Are Abusing Tracking Technologies | Avast - Security Boulevard

How Political Candidates Are Abusing Tracking Technologies | Avast - Security Boulevard


How Political Candidates Are Abusing Tracking Technologies | Avast - Security Boulevard

Posted: 27 May 2020 03:30 PM PDT

It used to be so easy to figure out what a web server was doing by examining its underlying HTML coding. Those days are sadly a thing of the distant past. Today's web servers do so much more: they consolidate a lot of information from various sources, including ad banner networks, images, visitor analytics, tracking cookies, content distribution networks and more. Sadly, this complexity hides a lot of abuses to your privacy. 

We studied a group of 100 different political candidate websites during the 2018 midterm elections and found two basic issues of privacy abuse:

  • The widespread use of canvas fingerprinting to track visitors
  • The lack of accountability to protect visitors' private data

Canvas fingerprinting refers to coordinating a series of tracking techniques to identify a visitor using what browser, IP address, computer processor and operating system details and other details. To give you an idea of the data that the browser collects without your knowledge, take a look at the screenshot below from BrowserLeaks.com. It shows my computer running Chrome on a Mac OS v.10.13 using Intel hardware.

antifingerprinting

HTML Canvas , along with a variety of other fingerprinting techniques, has been around for several years as it is based on the same programming interface used to draw graphics and other animations using Javascript website developers are getting savvy about how to use it to detect who you are and target you accordingly. In the early days of the web, tracking cookies were used to figure out if you had previously visited a particular website. They were small text files that were written to your hard drive. But canvas fingerprinting is more insidious: there is no tracking information that is left behind on your computer: everything is stored in the cloud. What is worse is that your fingerprint can be shared across a variety of other websites without your knowledge. We found its use on almost every candidate website we examined. And it is very hard  to eliminate this information, once you start using your browser and spreading yourself around the Internet. Even if you bring up a private or incognito browsing session, you still are dribbling out this kind of data. 

What makes this worse is that more than half of the candidates' websites we examined did not have any stated privacy policies linked to their home pages. That means they could be sharing your private data without your permission. 

These results agree with a similar study done by Ghostery looking at a larger sample of candidate websites for the 2018 midterms. They found trackers on 87% of all websites, with 9% of sites having more than 11 different trackers present. Google and Facebook trackers appeared on more than half of the websites and Twitter-based trackers appeared on a third of the candidate webpages. Republican candidates had 16% more trackers on average than Democrats. (Our research found in general the two parties had similar numbers of trackers.)

Our research also found that some candidates' websites were using well-known trackers that have had privacy abuses in the past, such as AddThis

Why are these tracking technologies used? The simple answer is that they want to micro target their campaign advertising and shape the particular ad or pitch they want to show you. They use the canvas fingerprint to collect which news sites you visit, what kind of information you consume, and where you spend your browsing time. 

What you can do to stop the tracking

There are two alternative privacy-oriented browsers that you can use to block fingerprinting. One of them is the Avast Secure Browser. This is available on Windows, Mac OS and Android and supports a number of privacy-enhancing features including preventing third party tracking, stopping websites from identifying your unique user profile, a better DNS implementation and built-in VPN. There is also the Tor browser, which has some of these protective features also built-in (and also available for Linux), and various things you can do to harden Firefox browsers

There are three other tools that can run on a variety of standard browsers: Avast's AntiTrack, PrivacyBadger and Ghostery. AntiTrack hides your digital fingerprint from techniques like canvas fingerprinting without breaking functionality. You can clear any tracking data and cookies on a regular schedule, be notified of any fingerprinting, and whitelist particular websites that you know are safe.

There are also two browser extensions. Privacy Badger is from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and is focused on the consumer who is concerned about his or her online privacy. When you call it up onscreen, it will show you a list of the third-party sites and has a simple three-position slider bar next to each one: you can block the originating domain entirely, just block its cookies, or allow it access. Ghostery works a bit differently, and ironically (or unfortunately) wants you to register before it provides more detailed information about third party sites. It provides a short description of the ad network or tracking site that it has discovered from reading the page you are currently browsing. The two tools cite different sites in their reports. 

How will this all shake out for the upcoming November elections? There are several things to consider:

  • First, assume that every candidate's website that you interact with will use a variety of tracking and fingerprinting technologies. If this concerns you, you might want to install our Secure Browser or use one of the other browser extensions. Realize that setting any of these tools up will carry some usability tradeoffs and some effort to tune them to your particular needs.
  • If you are concerned about the quality of news that you consume, re-read our blog here about how to spot fake news and be more skeptical about what you come across online.
  • Next, test what your HTML Canvas reveals about your configuration so you can get a better understanding of what data is collected about you. 
  • Finally, limit your web browsing on your mobile devices if at all possible. Your mobile is a treasure trove of all sorts of information about you, and even if you are using the Avast Android browser you still can leak this to third parties.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Blog | Avast EN authored by Avast Blog. Read the original post at: https://blog.avast.com/how-political-candidates-are-abusing-tracking-technologies

Avira vs. Avast in 2020: Which One is the Better Antivirus? - Henri Le Chat Noir

Posted: 31 May 2020 03:41 AM PDT

Surfing among the web these days with your guard down is cyber suicide. Malware, ransomware, spyware, and adware are on the rise, and packing your PC with a strong and capable antivirus is a 'must'. Don't rely only on your knowledge for what websites to avoid, as viruses can enter your system by other methods as well.

Avira and Avast are two of the best antivirus software out there, and we're glad to analyze them today in order to find out which one is better.

  1. Introduction

Avira is a strong antivirus software that also offers a VPN. The protection offered is capable of blocking online threats like ransomware, spyware and malicious websites. Avira can even improve your PC's performance, speed it up, and accelerate its startup.

Avast has over 400 million users, and there's no wonder why. Avast is capable of securing your passwords, avoiding fake websites, blocking viruses and other malware, scanning for WiFi weaknesses, stopping webcam spying, improving ransomware security, and more.

  1. Features

Avira

Avira is not doing bad at all in this area. The dangers of random WiFi networks or for simply surfing among various websites cannot be taken lightly. For this, Avira offers a compelling solution of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) , although we must say that the feature is available only for Avira Prime users.

Among its highlight, we can also mention a clean-up tool called System Speedup Pro, which is capable of removing temporary files and speed up your PC. With Avira, you don't have to worry anymore about your apps becoming outdated, because the antivirus is packed with a scanner capable of updating any apps from your computer.

Privacy is also something that Avira is very focused on. The software can optimize how your data is used and even remove privacy cookies.

There's also worth mentioning that Avira can also offer protection for your smartphone if it's running on Android or iOS. Avira can even find your mobile device if you lose it or if someone steals it from you.

Avast

Anybody is reticent when it comes to installing new software on his PC. That's where the Avast Sandbox comes in handy, as it lets you test certain apps or open pretty much any suspicious files in some sort of quarantined mode. This prevents the accessed file from interacting with the rest of your computer. Avast will also tell you this way if there is any security issue going on with that file, and you'll be able to remove it without any risk of infection.

As Avira, Avast also offers VPN protection. You just can't overlook the importance of using a VPN these days, as you cannot know when you're desperately in the need of catching some random WiFi signal. Avast also offers a tool for cleaning up files and removing junk files.

  1. Prices

We have to admit that pricing is a very important criterion when choosing the right software. Saving money is always a good idea, as they don't grow in trees. Both Avira and Avast offer free-of-charge versions, but for extra features, you must pay.

Avira

The cheapest and basic version is the Avira Antivirus Pro, as an annual subscription costs $60, and it covers three devices. This will grant you scanning for downloads and emails, privacy protection, top-tier antivirus protection, and a web filter for blocking suspicious websites.

Next-up is the Avira Internet Security version that includes all of the features that Antivirus Pro has to offer, and also access to the Software Updater Pro and Password Manager Pro. Avira Internet Security is worth $13 more than Antivirus Pro.

We surely can't forget the Avira Prime version, as it's the best one in terms of quality. It includes all the features of the other versions, and even more. Thus, we must mention VPN protection, privacy tune-up tools, the network scanner, and mobile security for Android or iOS devices. Avira Prime asks for $99.99 per year for five devices.

Avast

Avast Premium Security is the cheapest offer, but it's practically a bundle of two plans. Premium Security Single-Device is one of them, it's worth about $70 per year, and it offers antivirus protection for one PC for nearly. Most of the Avast features are included, like secure-file encryption, the sandbox testing tool, and more.

Avast Ultimate is the most expensive plan at its demanded $100 per year. Besides the standard features, it offers VPN protection, a password manager, and more.

  1. Customer support

Regardless of how great a program is, customer support is crucial. There will always be different issues occurring, and finding yourself waiting days and weeks for an email sent to the developers is an awful scenario.

Avira

Only premium customers can benefit from direct email and phone support. But you can simply access the official website of the service, as Avira offers there detailed info, a FAQ section, and how-to guides.

There's also the option to post on the community forum if you don't find what you're looking for. The staff should respond ASAP because they're in charge of the forum.

Avast

Like in the case of Avira, direct support for Avast is only available for premium users. But if you install the premium trial, you can benefit from Avast's direct support.

Furthermore, Avast has a huge amount of helpful info and instructions for its users, grouped by different categories. This antivirus also has a support forum.

However, if you still can't get your desired answers in the case of Avast, Avira, or any other software, remember that there's always YouTube and the good old search engine from Google.

Conclusion

We believe Avast is better than Avira as it offers more security-related features and extra utilities in its security suites. Avast also puts a minimal impact on system performance. However, Avira is believed to be ahead of Avast for its better malware detection. If the price is a decisive aspect for you, you must take into account that Avira is cheaper than Avast.

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