8 years of Android — malware, malicious apps, and how to stay safe

Next story

Celebrating its eighth birthday in 2016, Android has come a long way since its conception. Android has proven to be overwhelmingly popular in more than 190 countries. Australia has particularly shown a preference for Android, with it having a market share of 60.2% in July 2016.Unfortunately, with a market share of that size and millions of users, it is also a growing target for cybercriminals who are determined to exploit its vulnerabilities. One of the main ways cybercriminals are exploiting the weaknesses of Android devices is by luring users into offering them fake apps and promising to fix security glitches. It is only once users have paid for the useless app, that they realise they were deceived. More fake apps are being created and several are mimicking popular ones, such as a recent hack on Pokémon Go. These hacks are filled with scareware, fake ads and surveys and in some cases, people have reported their devices frozen after clicking on fake apps. Similarly, another recent hack on Android targeted millions of customers of Australia’s largest banks, stealing banking details and thwarting two-factor authentication security. Here, malware hid in infected devices until a user opened a legitimate banking app, superimposing a fake login screen to capture usernames and passwords. The common theme between all these Android attacks is how cybercriminals create fake copies of popular apps to attract as many victims as possible. If the malware is uncovered, they will often make minor changes, repack the app, and try to target users again. This allows cybercriminals to target large numbers of users with minimal effort.To keep safe, Android users must be proactive in preventative measures. Here are some ways to ensure your safety: 

  1. Keep devices up to date. Get automatic patches and updates to stay protected, even if you’re not the most security-savvy user. 
  2. If possible, stick with Google Play or other reputable app stores. While these markets might not be completely free from malicious apps, you have a significantly better chance of avoiding them. 
  3. Before installing a new application, check ratings and reviews. Focus on the negative reviews as they are often from legitimate users, while positive reviews can often be crafted by attackers.
  4. Focus on the permissions requested by the app. If they seem irrelevant to the app’s function, avoid downloading the app.
  5. Use a reputable and Android-focused mobile security solution to protect your device.

To protect yourself from the range of threats and cybercriminals attacking Android devices, it is essential to follow these steps to remain a safe and secure Android user.