Fresh Android adware discovered inside over 200 applications on Play Store

Ruben Fields
March 16, 2019

Android users who've downloaded at least one of 210 hugely popular apps may have exposed their smartphones to adware that could become a much larger problem in the future.

The functionality of SimBad can be summarized under three separate categories, including phishing, the ability to show advertisements, and exposure to secondary apps.

The report noted that only 23 Android apps were able to detect all the 100 percent malware samples.

Only 80 apps detected more than 30% of the malware the company tested the apps with. Chances are that hasn't happened, and the apps you use work the same as they would on a phone with another version of Android.

Two-thirds of all Android antivirus apps are useless and fail to detect malware, according to an expert study by an Austrian organization that is specialized in testing antivirus products. Users will not see changes on apps listed in Google Play Store on other form factors including Android TV, Wear OS and Android Auto.

Despite security researchers proving that they can still track devices with randomized MAC addresses, supporting this feature will reduce the efficiency of some data harvesting and user tracking operations.

Instead of using an emulator, as pointed out by ZDNet, the researchers manually tested each of the 250 apps they've selected for the study.

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Users likely wouldn't notice the malicious app since the malware instructs the device to remove the app icon from the device launcher, making it harder to uninstall the app while it displays ads in the background.

A seperate group of 32 apps were later pulled from the Google Play Store during the testing process.

Some apps would even block themselves, in instances when the devs would forget to whitelist themselves.

Similarly, starting with Android Q, Google will also require app developers to request a special permission before they can access what the OS maker calls "non-resettable device identifiers" -device IMEI and serial number.

So how should you pick an antivirus app?

Here are a few of the apps you can download if you're still paranoid: McAfee Mobile Security (freemium), Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus (paid), Kaspersky Internet Security for Android (freemium), Norton Security and Antivirus (paid), Sophos Mobile Security (free), Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus (paid), Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (free), Avast Antivirus & Security (free), AVG Antivirus Security (free) and Lookout (freemium).

As you'd expect from such a major release, the laundry list of new features, enhancements and fixes is extensive and delves into everything from superficial interface changes to developer tools and APIs that most of us would rarely hear about or even realise existed.

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