5 Tips for Avoiding Android Malware

The ubiquity of mobile phones has created a unique opportunity for cybercriminals. They now have a way of accessing both our money and personal information without us realizing it by distributing risky apps that we often willingly download.

Many of the most dangerous apps target Android devices, and there are a few good reasons why. Let’s look at why Android malware is so prevalent, and what you can do to keep your device and information safe.

One reason why Android devices are a goldmine for cybercrooks is that they offer hundreds of millions of potential targets. Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world, accounting for more than 80% of new smartphones sold in the last quarter of 2016[1].

That’s why just a handful of malicious apps can do serious damage. Take the “ExpensiveWall” malware attack earlier this year, which spread to as many as 21 million victims. By sneaking malicious apps into the Google Play store, cybercriminals were able to charge users serious money for phony services and premium text messages they didn’t agree to receive.

The users thought they were downloading harmless apps offering wallpaper options and camera tools, not realizing that they were designed to rack up charges in the background. And since the apps were distributed through Google’s official app store, users presumably thought they were safe.

That leads us to another reason why Android malware is so popular with the bad guys. It is easier to get an app into the Google Play store, after a short manual review, compared to Apple’s vetting process. This wide distribution is great for Android users who want a large number of app choices that they can run on different devices without restrictions, but not so great when it comes to making sure that each app is above board and secure.

For approval of an iOS app, or even an app update, developers have to submit to a rigorous review that can take as long as 10 days before the app is made available to the public. What’s more, iOS apps are only distributed through Apple’s official App Store, unlike Android apps, which are available through a number of channels. However, it’s important to note that iOS devices can be affected by the same tactics used against Android devices. For instance, both are occasionally subject to scareware attacks, which typically come in the form of deceptive pop-ups.

So, if you are an Android user it’s worth your while to take a few key steps to avoid malware attacks aimed at accessing your device, money, and information.

Here are 5 tips to stay safe:

1) Do your own safety checks—Before installing a new app, read other users’ reviews to see if the app is safe and does what it claims to do. Be extra wary of “free apps” distributed through little known sites, or via links sent by email or text message.

2) Read the permissions first—We know—wading through all the legalese that comes with app permissions can be tiresome, but it is well worth your while. Make sure that the app won’t invade your privacy by accessing information it doesn’t need, like your contacts, camera, or keystrokes. Pay special attention to any mention of paid services, like premium text messages, so you know what you are agreeing to.

3) Limit your install options—Stick to using the official Google Play store or a reputable store like the Amazon App Store. (Although using the Play or Amazon stores is no guarantee that all the apps there are safe, they tend to have more users and more reviews to base your decisions on.)

One quick and easy way to avoid unsafe apps is to make sure that the “install from unknown sources” setting remains in the off position. This prevents you from installing applications from anywhere other than the Play store.

4) Limit your app use—Only install apps you need and use regularly. If you no longer use an app, uninstall it to keep it from accessing your information unnecessarily. This will help you save memory, and reduce your exposure to potential risks. For apps that you do use, limit their access to personal information so that they only access what they need to function properly. For example, a weather app doesn’t need access to your photos.

5) Use mobile security—Comprehensive protection, like McAfee Mobile Security, can help guard against viruses, malware, device theft and other threats. It can also help you understand how your apps are using your personal information.

Looking for more mobile security tips and trends? Be sure to follow @McAfee Home on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2017/2/16/14634656/android-ios-market-share-blackberry-2016

3 comments on “5 Tips for Avoiding Android Malware

  • james damon says:

    hello I`m leaving this important comment: I was hacked on my computer 2 times from not paying attention 1 day someone called me on my home phone stating that I have 18 Trojans in my computer and half way through the 2nd time I said hold on sir my HPTech support never calls me I have too call them if I have a problem and how did you get my home phone number to start with. well he passed that by quickly and went on in my comuter doing things and I shut my PC down and he called me back on my cell phone and told me I cannot get in my computer unless I pay up to 400.00 so I caolled my Hp tech support and they formatted my computer and got my to buy MacAfee and they are protecting my computer to never have to worry about hackers no more ..thank you MacAfee..

    Reply
  • Laura Lawrence says:

    In My Platform of Mc Afee , I can see all of the files that have many KB’s in them. I am on limited space on this laptop it only goes to 2 Gb Memory. And it gets overloaded lots of times to where I have to run recovery. Which is a nuisance and time consuming.
    If I found an affordable plan with your company that I could use and signed up for.. Do you think that you could cut it down to only that which is necessary ? I am sure that I do not need hundreds of files, do I ?
    How do you go about protecting Computers ? What determines what you will investigate and accept or omit ?…………………….Please respond… Do you still have the $20.00 plan ? Laura .L.
    Also do you protect my computer from invasion— when I am on FaceBook ? Thank You.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      Unfortunately, those files are all needed. We try to keep the program as small as possible, but it has quite a lot of “moving parts.” If I understand what you’re saying, though… you’re saying your laptop has only 2GB of *memory*. I’m unsure how large the hard drive is on your laptop, but that’s where the files are actually saved. What’s happening in your memory is actual, active processes; not saved files.

      I’m not sure what type of recovery you’re running, but short of adding more memory to your laptop, the best suggestion I have is to close other programs before you run a scan so that nothing else is resident in memory. You can also try increasing page file size (see the section “Change the size of virtual memory” at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/15055/windows-7-optimize-windows-better-performance). That page has quite a few great tips about improving general Windows performance, actually.
      Unfortunately, with such a small amount of memory, even Windows is probably taking up quite a lot of space by itself. As everything adds more and more bells and whistles, things just keep getting bigger and it eventually comes down to three options:
      – Optimize Windows to squeeze out a little extra performance wherever you can.
      – Run fewer programs.
      – Get more memory.
      Regarding Facebook, we can protect you if we see a virus or other malware attempting to download to your system, but we don’t scan Facebook itself or monitor private messages. Facebook does have some protections in place, though. Take a look at this Facebook Help page: How can I stay safe on Facebook and what safety resources are available to me https://www.facebook.com/help/122006714548814?helpref=popular_topics
      If you’re on Twitter and you have any more questions, please tweet us @McAfee_Help. We’re always happy to help!

      Reply

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