The SecureLine facility, says the firm, was mainly developed for use across WiFi networks – and in particular, public access (i.e. open) services.
According to Deborah Salmi of the Central European IT security vendor, the trend towards usage of public access WiFi services is expanding to more restaurants, cafes and hotels globally – and people are using it.
In a survey of Avast’s global users – and which took in responses from more than 340,000 people – researchers found that 50pc of PC users in the US now connect to the Internet via public access WiFi, and worldwide, 46pc use unsecured open WiFi facilities.
And, she says, people are doing a lot more than updating their Facebook status, as 32pc of US users said they are performing security-sensitive transactions such as shopping or online banking, despite the risk of hackers accessing their credentials. Worldwide, meanwhile, and this percentile rises to 36pc.
“The ease of connecting via a free hotspot lulls users into a false sense of security, but WiFi networks are particularly vulnerable to exploitation,” she says, adding that Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attacks are all too common.
In a MiTM attack, Salmi explained, a cybercriminal intercepts data sent between two parties.
That means, she says, the bad guy captures your data – like email addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers – before it reaches its destination. And once s/he has got this information, it can be decrypted and read, and then passed on to the highest bidder.
Avast SecureLine, she says, solves this problem by using SSL – Secure Sockets Layer – protection, as well as using security keys/certificates to safeguard Internet communications on otherwise unsecured WiFi networks.
Ondre Vlcek, Avast’s CTO, said that Avast has built SecureLine into the Avast AV software, meaning it basically uses a one-click option to start using the service.
“Our security researchers are constantly on the lookout for emerging threat vectors and we found that the number of threats coming from those unsecured public hotspots is now bigger than ever. So we went ahead and built a solution that is effectively able to shield our users from these dangers, with fully automated operation and minimal impact on their comfort,” he explained.
ITSP notes that, whilst SecureLine is available as a standalone client or as a value-add to Avast’s free and premium AV versions, the service does cost from $7.99 per months.
This puts the service in competition with the likes of IPVanish.com, but reflects the growing shift to monthly subscriptions for VPN services.