By amk, 31/01/2022
Android: how to spot malware hiding in your smartphone?
Malware on Android can find sneaky ways to trick you. For example, a mobile app called Ads Blocker presented itself as a service to reduce unwanted mobile ads. But users soon discovered that it was hiding malware that only served more ads. This is just one example of many malware that plague the Google OS. Some may even generate fake ad clicks to increase revenue for their creators.
Researchers claim that Ads Blocker type adware applications are the most common malware on Android. However, other malicious apps can do much worse, like stealing personal information from the phone.
The publisher Malwarebytes claims to have found nearly 200,000 malware on the mobiles of its customers in May and June. How do you know if your phone has malware and how can you stop it? Here are some expert tips.
How malware works on your phone
Typically, mobile malware takes two kinds of approaches, says Adam Bauer, security researcher for mobile security firm Lookout. The first type of malware tricks you into granting permissions that allow it to access sensitive information. That's where the Ads Blocker app comes in, and many of the permissions it asked for are similar to what a real ad blocker would ask for. But they also allow the app to constantly run in the background to push ads even when the user is using unrelated apps.
The second type of malware exploits vulnerabilities in phones and accesses sensitive information by giving itself administrator privileges. No more having victims click “OK” when asking for permission. As a result, the malware can run discreetly without anyone suspecting its presence.
Signs of a potential presence of malware
You constantly see advertisements, regardless of the application you use;
You install an app, then the icon immediately disappears;
Your battery drains much faster than usual;
You see apps that you don't recognize on your phone.
If one or more of these phenomena occurs on your Android smartphone, it is urgent to intervene to unmask the intruder and eliminate it.
Ransomware on Android Phones
Another type of malware is ransomware or ransomware in English. Victims see their files locked and can no longer access their data. Generally, a message appears to claim payment in bitcoin to recover them. Luckily, most ransomware on Android can only lock files on external storage, which is a lesser evil.
What Mobile Malware Can Do
In addition to harassing you with incessant advertisements, malware can access private information:
Your bank details ;
Information about your mobile;
Your telephone number and/or email address;
Your contact directory.
Hackers can use this information for various malicious acts: usurp your identity with your bank details; sell your personal information until you are inundated with phone calls, text messages and other advertisements; send links to other malware to everyone in your contacts.
How to counter malware on your Android phone
Whether you think you already have malware on your Android phone or just want to protect yourself against it, there are solutions.
First of all, make sure to keep your mobile OS up to date. Security experts consider this practice to be one of the most important measures to protect yourself. If your phone is already infected with malware, Android updates can patch some vulnerabilities it exploits and render it inoperable.
The other step is to review the permissions your apps have. Does a game have the ability to send SMS? It's unnecessary and a potential red flag, says Adam Bauer.
Other rogue apps give themselves administrator privileges, so they can't be removed without several steps. If you're having trouble eliminating a specific app, do an online search to find what has worked for other people.
One possible option is to install an antivirus. This type of application can sometimes slow down your phone and you should know that it requires deep access to your phone in order to spot malicious behavior and warn you. It is therefore imperative to choose a trustworthy publisher. We recommend opting for the paid option to benefit from the most effective features and avoid suffering from yet more advertisements in return for free.
At a minimum, you can use well-known services like Malwarebytes, Norton, Lookout, or Bitdefender to scan your device if you suspect malware is present on your phone.
Finally, you can get rid of or even better avoid Android apps downloaded from third-party app stores. These apps are not verified by Google and can more easily spread malware. Unlike Apple iOS, Android smartphones have the advantage of allowing the installation of applications without going through the official Google Play Store application store, all you have to do is download the application file (in the format .APK) and allow installation of apps from unknown sources in settings.
This can help, for example, it allows the publisher of Fortnite whose application has been removed from the Store, to be able to continue to offer its application on Android. But this permissiveness is a double-edged sword. Some sites that distribute APK files can also be malicious and deliver corrupted versions of applications. If you ever need to install an app this way, be sure to download it from the publisher's official website or from trusted sites.
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CNET.com article adapted by CNETFrance
/ Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay