Following the death of Google+ announced last month, Google is again warning Android users against dangerous apps found on the Google Play Store. These apps can steal your money and other important data.
Android is one of the most popular operating systems, used by more than two billion active devices all over the world. Users can download hundreds of thousands of apps from the Google Play Store free of charge. Games, tools, photo editing apps, office apps and all other kinds of apps are up for grabs on Google Play Store.
However, security experts warned against malicious apps that have managed to sneak their way into Google Play Store. Security experts at ESET discovered at least 30 apps loaded with banking malware, not to mention those that have evaded detection and continue to be downloaded from Google’s app repository. These dangerous apps were disguised as power managers, device cleaners, and horoscope apps. Although the malicious apps look different and were uploaded by different developers, security experts believe that these apps were uploaded by the same attacker.
Series of Security Issues
This isn’t the first time this year that Android was plagued with security issues. Last month, Google announced that Google+ will be shutting down in August 2019 following a massive data breach in March this year. Data from almost 500,000 users proved vulnerable to attacks until Google found out the leak and patched it up. Although Google claimed that no data was compromised, the security crisis drove Google into shutting down their social media platform completely.
Android users were also warned last August against unsafe apps for Android that were proliferating inside Google Play Store. Security experts found 150 apps on Google Play Store that were loaded with malware. The dangerous apps were very misleading because most of them had thousands of installations and four-star ratings, making users believe that they were actually legitimate.
The apps in question contained malicious Microsoft Windows executable files. Although the malware needs a Windows system to be executed and therefore cannot infect Android devices, this malware discovery still poses a threat to the software supply chain. The only way for this malware to be executed is when the infected Android device is connected to a Windows computer the APK file is unpacked there.
The 150 unsafe apps for Android were released between October and November 2017, and were removed immediately after discovery. However, they had been on Google Play Store for more than half a year before they were taken down.
A month after the discovery of 150 dangerous apps, online security expert BitDefender warned smartphone users of a spying malware being spread via Google Play Store. The Triout malware can be used to gather data from your mobile device, such as call records, text messages, pictures, videos, and sensitive data. The infected device can be used as a spy tool against its user. Experts from BitDefender believe that the app was meant to target specific people and data gathered from the spyware are designed to blackmail these people.
The app used to spread the malware was called Sex Game. It was uploaded to the Google Play Store in 2016, but was immediately removed after the discovery of the malware.
The latest threat to the Android community sneaked into Google Play Store and was discovered just recently. The disguised mobile banking Trojans were discovered from August to early October 2018.
This new banking malware is more sophisticated and complex than other run-of-the-mill mobile banking malware that relies on impersonating financial institutions and capturing your data through fake login screens.
This is how ESET described the mobile banking Trojan:
“These remotely controlled Trojans are capable of dynamically targeting any apps found on the victim’s device with tailor-made phishing forms. Aside from this, they can intercept and redirect text messages to bypass SMS-based two-factor-authentication, intercept call logs, and download and install other apps on the compromised device. These malicious apps were uploaded under mostly different developer names and guises, but code similarities and a shared C&C server suggest the apps are the work of a single attacker or group.”
The 30 dangerous apps were taken down from Google Play Store after Google was notified by the security experts regarding the malicious nature of these apps. However, the apps had already been installed by 30,000 users before they were totally removed.
Fortunately, this new banking malware is not that hard to get rid of. If you suspect your device to be infected by this malware, all you need to do is uninstall the malicious app under Settings > (General) > Application manager/Apps. You also need to monitor your bank account for suspicious transactions and change your online banking password or PIN code as soon as you suspect your device to be infected with this malware.
How to Protect Your Device From Dangerous Apps
Cybercriminals are getting smarter in slipping malware into Android devices. Therefore, it is important for smartphone users to be aware of these threats and to stay vigilant at all times. Here are some simple ways to protect your device and your data from unsafe apps for Android:
- Download apps only from the official Google Play Store. Although this does not totally guarantee that the app is not dangerous, the chances of downloading malicious apps are lower compared to third-party app stores. Aside from Google Play, you can also download the app from the developer’s official website.
- Check the number of downloads, apps ratings, and reviews of the app you wish to download. Legitimate apps usually have legitimate reviews and ratings. Don’t forget the app description. An app with a poorly written and grammatically incorrect description could mean two things: either the developer’s native language is not English, or it was carelessly spun together for the sake of having a description.
- Look at the permissions you grant to the apps you install. Does the app really need to have access to your camera or your contacts? If you think the permissions are unnecessary, you should think twice about installing the app.
- Keep your device updated and optimized. Install all necessary updates for your system and regularly clean out junk files using reliable tools such as Outbyte Android Care. You might not know it, but your trash can be a treasure trove for malicious attackers who thrive on sensitive data.
Hackers are always a step ahead so smartphone users need to take steps to protect their device and personal data from the dangerous apps they wield. We hope these tips can help improve your device’s security and prevent the spread of fake and malicious apps.