Today we have reports from AdaptiveMobile, a mobile security company, regarding a new bit of malware that some Android users may be installing. An app disguises itself as an Amazon voucher app that will reward you for taking surveys. First and foremost, many websites that promise free things around the net take you through endless surveys and click bait demanding personal information while never delivering on the goods. This mobile application is not much different, however in this instance it is capable of looking through your personal information and messaging your contacts behind the scenes.
Without even installing extra software onto your device, the voucher app has permissions to your social networking information and contact list. To top this off the app will send SMS text messages to your contacts spreading links to its software download without your consent. Not only can the app potentially cost you money in unwarranted text messages, but the entire time you are clicking through the app the owners are making advertising click revenue. Security firm AdaptiveMobile states there have been over 4,000 detected devices carrying this software in the United States alone. While not a terribly large number, in scale there have been over 200,000 illicit messages generated.
While this all seems quite disastrous for the Android landscape, the actual state of Android security is not too shabby. Apps are screened as they pass through the Google Play app store, and potential apps flagged as malicious or inappropriate are reviewed and removed. As for users who to choose to side load applications they have downloaded on their own, there is always an inherent risk involved. For users fond of side loading apps, there are a few antivirus solutions that can help, and we did a write up on the top security apps a while back. However, when Google security engineer Adrian Ludwig was interviewed at Gadget Gigs early last month he had this to say: "In 2014 ... fewer than 0.15 percent of Applications installed from outside of Google Play to U.S. English devices were classified as Potentially Harmful Applications. ... The potential security benefit of an additional security solution is very small." From this information, it can be determined actual users falling victim to Android malware are quite low, at least in regards to side loaded applications. Still, with millions of Android phones on the market 0.15 percent still represents quite a large number so be wary of what you download.