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Be cautious: These Android apps are installing malware, stealing your data


Android apps

According to cloud cybersecurity firm Zscaler, over 90 different Android apps available on Google Play have been found to contain malware. These dangerous apps, collectively installed more than 5.5 million times, usually present themselves as PDF or QR code readers. In reality, they contain banking malware that stealthily collects your data once you install the malware-laden app update.

This payload then displays fake banking login pages on your device, which can be used to steal your financial credentials and potentially gain access to your bank accounts.

    Two examples of malware-infected apps found by Zscaler are "PDF Reader & File Manager" by a developer named TSARKA Watchfaces and "QR Reader & File Manager" by a developer named Risovanul. These two apps collectively received over 70,000 downloads but have now been removed from the Play Store. However, these apps still pose a security threat to anyone who has previously downloaded them.

    Notably, these two apps included some suspicious warning signs indicating they were not legitimate. Firstly, the developer names for both apps are neither recognizable nor logical. Additionally, they do not offer professional support emails linked to a web domain matching the developer's name. Instead, both apps use free Gmail accounts with irregular prefixes.

    According to Zscaler, most other malware-infected apps on Google Play fall under the "tools" category, while many other dangerous apps are disguised as "personalization" or photography apps. While Zscaler focused on Anatsa in its analysis, it identified several malware families distributed through the Google Play Store, including Joker, Adware, Facestealer, and Coper.

    "Although their smallest [malware family distribution] shares are 2% and 1% (respectively), Antasa and Coper are very well-known and highly impactful banking trojan malware families. Last year, we saw several instances of Coper banking malware in the Google Play Store," Zscaler says.

    Unfortunately, just because an app is on the Google Play Store or Apple's App Store does not mean it is safe to download and use. Recently in April, other types of banking trojan malware like "Brokewell" emerged, allowing attackers full access and remote takeover of victims' devices. Android malware has been an ongoing threat for years, and Anatsa malware was also detected earlier this year and in 2022.

    Common Malware-Infected Apps

    The infected apps identified by Zscaler often present themselves as seemingly harmless PDF readers or QR code readers. Users download these apps expecting utility but instead install a payload of banking malware.

    Examples of Infected Apps

    Two prime examples of these infected apps are "PDF Reader & File Manager" by a developer named TSARKA Watchfaces and "QR Reader & File Manager" by Risovanul. These apps received over 70,000 downloads before being removed from the Play Store, but they remain a threat to users who installed them before their removal.

    Impact on Users

    Once installed, these malicious apps can steal sensitive data and financial credentials. They can display fake banking login pages, tricking users into entering their information, which is then sent to the attackers. This can lead to significant financial loss and identity theft.

    Warning Signs of Malicious Apps

    Users should be wary of apps with unfamiliar developer names or those that use free email services instead of professional ones. Legitimate apps typically have recognizable developer names and provide support emails linked to a company domain.

    Categories of Affected Apps

    Most malware-infected apps identified by Zscaler fall under the "tools" category. However, many dangerous apps are also disguised as personalization or photography apps, making it essential for users to scrutinize every app they download.

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    Malware Families Identified

    Zscaler identified several malware families distributed through the Google Play Store, including Anatsa, Joker, Adware, Facestealer, and Coper. Each of these families has distinct characteristics and methods of compromising devices.

    Significance of Anatsa and Coper

    Anatsa and Coper, though comprising a smaller percentage of malware distribution, are particularly notorious for their impact. These banking trojans are highly effective in stealing financial information and have been observed in various instances over the past year.

    Preventive Measures

    To protect your device from malware, always download apps from reputable developers, read reviews, and check app permissions before installation. Keeping your device and apps updated also helps protect against known vulnerabilities.

    What to Do If Infected

    If you suspect your device is infected, immediately uninstall the suspicious app, run a comprehensive antivirus scan, and change your passwords. Contact your bank if you believe your financial information has been compromised.

    Final Verdict

    The threat of Android malware is real and evolving. Staying vigilant, being cautious about the apps you download, and taking preventive measures can significantly reduce your risk. Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and staying informed is your best defense.

    Some Important Queries

    What should I do if I downloaded an infected app?

    Immediately uninstall the app, run an antivirus scan, and change any passwords that may have been compromised. Contact your bank if you suspect financial information has been stolen.

    How can I tell if an app is safe?

    Check the developer's name, read reviews, and scrutinize app permissions. Avoid apps with unfamiliar developer names or those requesting excessive permissions.

    Are iOS apps safer than Android apps?

    While iOS is generally considered more secure due to its closed ecosystem, no platform is entirely immune to malware. Always practice safe downloading habits.

    What are the best antivirus apps for Android?

    Some highly recommended antivirus apps include Bitdefender, Norton Mobile Security, and Avast Mobile Security. Regularly update these apps for optimal protection.

    How often should I update my apps?

    Regularly update your apps as soon as new versions are available. Updates often include security patches that protect against newly discovered vulnerabilities.

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