Android malware is in the spotlight again, after security researchers discovered 15 apps posing as simple utilities on the Play Store that operate as adware once downloaded.
A new report from security outfit Sophos reveals the ruse and explains how it works.
Users install one of the nefarious programs in order to perform a simple function, such as read a QR code or crop an image – but once downloaded, the app disappears from plain view and can only be seen in the 'App info' section of the device, which lives under Settings.
Even then, the bad actors behind the malware attempt to disguise the app's presence and true intention, by giving it a name that sounds like a legitimate system file, such as 'Back up'.
"They generate frequent, large, intrusive ads and literally hide their app icons in the launcher in order to make it difficult for you to find and remove them. Several of them go a step further by disguising themselves in the phone’s App settings page," says Pankaj Kohli, a threat researcher at SophosLabs.
Uninstall these 15 Android apps today
According to Play Store statistics, more than 1.3 million people have downloaded the offending apps, which can be seen above.
As such, it's definitely worth checking to see if you've been hit by the latest Android malware plague.
There's a bit of effort involved, but Sophos outlines the easiest way to vet your device for unwanted nasties – the key here is that real Android system apps only offer a 'disable' option, rather than the 'uninstall' option associated with third-party downloads.
"Tap Settings, then Apps & Notifications. The most recently opened apps appear in a list at the top of this page. If any of those apps use the generic Android icon (which looks like a little greenish-blue Android silhouette) and have generic-sounding names (‘Back Up,’ ‘Update,’ ‘Time Zone Service’) tap the generic icon and then tap ‘Force Stop’ followed by ‘Uninstall’," advises Andrew Brandt, one of the security firm's principal researchers.
While it's believed that Google has removed the untrustworthy programs from its Play Store, that doesn't mean a similarly designed scam won't rear its ugly head in the future – so it's worth taking a look at the best antivirus software to see if there's one that meets your needs and budget.
Most of these offer mobile companion apps that screen downloads for malware before letting you install them on your device.
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