Thursday, 16 October 2014 11:42

AVG’s Wi-Fi Assistant: Wi-Fi hacking and tracking protection


AVG’s well above average security products for PCs, smartphones and tablets has taken a giant leap forward into protecting you against Wi-Fi hacking and tracking by smacking hackers with a software thwacking.

AVG’s new Wi-Fi Assistant app for Android has launched in Beta format, direct from AVG’s “Innovation Team” in Amsterdam, as a free download but with some in-app purchases, despite its beta status.

The Company says its new app has been fuelled by all those revelations about NSA snooping, as well as major Internet vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed, let alone all those malicious browser extensions designed to make it easy for low-level hackers like script-kiddies or anyone with a malicious heart to track people on public Wi-Fi.

So, what is the issue with Wi-Fi hacking when connected to public Wi-Fi networks, be it at airports, coffee shops, hotels, shopping malls or other places?

AVG says that “others may” be able to intercept passwords, private photos, emails, browser cookies and other info travelling over the air. AVG Wi-Fi Assistant acts as a VPN to encrypts your traffic so it is concealed from hackers.

Then there’s Wi-Fi tracking. People with access to specialised software, which could be just about anyone these days, to “use your phone's Wi-Fi signal, to track your location and in some instances identify you.”

The Company quotes MIT Technology Review which took a look at this Wi-Fi tracking technology and the inherent threats in this article, a worry given most people have Wi-Fi turned on all the time.

Retailers are getting in on the tracking act to see “how you move around stores or around the city and even identify who you are”.

Hackers are also sadly not above or below trying to trick your phone into connecting to a fake Wi-Fi hotspot so they can then snoop even further on your private info.

So, what does AVG’s new Wi-Fi Assistant do? It can “prevent tracking by turning off your Wi-Fi connection when you are not connected to a hotpot that you trust and automatically turns it back on when approaching the trusted hotspot again”, as well as protecting your from hacking and tracking “by combining smart Wi-Fi Automation with VPN encryption in one simple to use app, for free.”

The VPN component “secures your Internet connection and encrypts all the data you're sending and receiving. This allows you to  use mobile data with lesser risk of your data or passwords being stolen.”

You get 500 megabytes of free VPN encryption traffic, more can be purchased by upgrading to the app’s “premium VPN plan”, which the Company unsurprisingly suggests is a “must have feature for online banking, emailing, or logging into your social networking accounts.”

The Wi-Fi Automation component of the software does a bit of tracking of its own on your behalf to protect you, learning the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots you connect to, without using GPS. AVG says its software “then uses your location to automatically turn your phone’s Wi-Fi adaptor on and off, exactly when you need it, hiding you from trackers. As a bonus, turning the Wi-Fi connection on and off can even extend your battery life.”

So there’s a bit of battery saving thrown in as well for good measure.

If only AVG could protect us from Google’s snooping, too, it would be the product of the millennium, but even so, it seems a great new app to help Android users be a lot more secure when using free or paid public Wi-Fi networks!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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