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Security & privacy

Free antivirus program sells your data, remove it now

With so many viruses and malware attacks floating around the web, it can be difficult to trust computer programs. But this line of thinking almost never applies to antivirus software, which we trust to keep our computers safe from harm.

Despite our insistence on using these programs, it’s not unheard of for some of them to be deceptive. Because people tend to trust antivirus software, it’s a perfect front for other shady activities. Tap or click here to see how one antivirus software was accused of working with Russian intelligence.

In fact, one of the most beloved antivirus suites is struggling with a controversy brought to light after a shocking joint investigative report revealed it not only collects personal data from users, but it’s also selling that data to the highest bidder. Talk about a breach of trust!

Avast: Anti-virus, pro-marketing

Our antivirus programs are often the cornerstone of our cyberdefense strategy. That’s why programs with multi-tiered defenses block spyware, adware and phishing attempts in real-time. Let your guard down for a moment and the bad guys will come flocking in droves.

When antivirus programs fail us, it can be scary to deal with. But how would you feel about an antivirus program that fails us on a moral front? Imagine, if you can, a program that claims to protect us while harvesting our data behind the scenes.

Well, according to the joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag, leaked user data and internal documents revealed the famed antivirus developer Avast has been engaging in data collection behind the scenes.

The report details that Avast has been collecting data from customers like web browsing history, shopping habits and searches via a subsidiary called Jumpshot.

Clients reportedly paid Jumpshot millions of dollars for this data, with big names like McDonald’s, Conde Nast, Google, Sephora, Intuit and more. Some of the clients even asked for something called an “all clicks feed,” which tracks specific clicks and web interactions to a startling degree.

As an example of the depth of information Avast was collecting, reporters discovered one user visited porn websites, as well as what they were searching for and how they arrived there.

Thankfully, no personally identifying factors like names or specific profile usernames were included, but it’s reasonable to assume someone’s identity could be found based on the meticulously documented browsing history.

Data is an incredibly valuable commodity. Knowing exactly what makes your audience tick is key to getting them to buy and behave in predictable ways. And when you’re far enough down the rabbit hole to investigate porn habits, it begs the quest just how far these marketers are willing to go.

In recent months, Avast has been requiring users to opt into data collection upon installing the software. The report details that this came months after the company started collecting data in the first place.

I’m using Avast! What should I do?

The report claims that much of the data collected by Avast originates in a browser plugin meant to inform users about cyberattacks and unauthorized connections. If you haven’t used this extension, your data may be safe.

That said, it still might be a better idea to shake Avast for something a bit more secure. It’s also worth pointing out that many antivirus programs, although useful, don’t always work as intended. Tap or click here to see why antivirus software doesn’t always work.

One defense we can absolutely recommend is Windows Defender, which is Microsoft’s built-in security suite. Windows Defender packs all the basic virus protection you need, and is backed by frequent updates and security patches that protect your entire operating system.

You may still want to add an additional piece of security software that can detect incoming threats, as Defender falls short in those cases. Tap or click here for more information on Windows Defender.

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