Malware affects millions of Android users; remove these applications immediately

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While these apps promise to add new functionality to your Android smartphone, they actually push intrusive ads, subscribe users to premium services and steal social media accounts instead, according to BleepingComputer(opens in new tab). The malicious apps were discovered by security researchers from the antivirus software maker Dr. Web who provided further insight on each of the individual apps in a new report(opens in new tab). Although Google has removed most of these bad apps from the Play Store, you will still need to uninstall them manually if you have any of them on your Android devices. In addition to just being annoying, adware apps can quickly drain your smartphone’s battery as many of them are designed to continue running in the background even after you close them. The ones discovered by Dr. Web are actually modifications of existing adware families that first showed up on the Play Store back in May of this year.

On the Play Store, malware and adware continue to be serious issues. Adware and malware-filled dangerous apps have once again managed to get past Google’s filters and appear on the Play Store. These 36 harmful programmes pretend to be picture editors, virtual keyboards, system boosters, wallpaper changers, and other helpful features in order to deceive unwary users into downloading them.

Highlights

  • Of these adware apps, Neon Theme Keyboard by Nataļja Kokorevičs (which is still up in the Play Store at the time of writing) stands out as it has over a million downloads even with a terrible score of 1.8 based on 4,000 reviews. Fortunately though, it does seem like Google Play Protect has begun warning users about the app based on reviews from the Play Store. Joker apps that subscribe users to premium services
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  • These adware apps are also able to run on top of other apps as they request permission to use overlay windows during installation. However, they can keep running in the background as well by adding themselves to the battery saver’s exclusion list in Android. To make matters worse, many of these adware apps also feature the ability to hide their app icons in the app drawer or replace them with a different icon that resembles a core system component such as “SIM Toolkit”.

These two apps (YouToon – AI Cartoon Effect and Pista – Cartoon Photo Effect) disguise themselves as image editing tools that can apply cartoon filters over regular images and have been downloaded from the Play Store over 1.5 million times. Both apps have been designed to steal data from your Android smartphone that can be used to hack into your Facebook account.

Dr. Web’s researchers also found malicious apps on the Play Store that infect users’ devices with the infamous Joker malware. These apps are particularly dangerous since this malware strain has the ability to sign up victims to premium subscription services without their knowledge. Unfortunately, two of the malicious apps in Dr. Web’s list (Water Reminder- Tracker & Reminder by YPC Dev and Yoga- For Beginner to Advanced by ALHASSAN) are still available to download and have yet to be removed from the Play Store.

Protecting yourself from malicious apps on the Play Store
In order to avoid intrusive ads, being subscribed to premium services against your will or having your social media accounts stolen, the first thing you should do is look through the list below to make sure that none of these malicious apps are installed on your Android smartphone or tablet.

At the same time, you should also avoid installing apps from unknown sources and instead download them from official stores like the Google Play Store, Amazon App Store or Samsung Galaxy App Store. Even then, bad apps do manage to slip past Google’s defenses from time to time which is why you should always check user reviews and ratings, visit developer websites and read the privacy policy of every app you install. I know it’s a lot but it’s worth doing if you want to be on the safe side.

Finally, you should ensure that Google Play Protect is active on your devices as it regularly checks for malicious apps and warns you if you try to install one.  

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