Google has removed another batch of malicious applications of Android from Google Play Store for breaching the company’s terms of service. The roundup includes 101 apps owned by a single group known as the 2NAD network, which used 27 fake developer names as a front to distribute its questionable apps.
All of these fraudulent applications contain various types of malicious or exploitative code, mainly advertising fraud and unwanted data collection carried out through strange permissions in the applications. First of all, you should review the Cybernews list of the 101 malicious applications and delete any you have downloaded, but it is also a good time to review the ways to detect a malicious application before it infects your Android device.
How to spot a suspicious Android app
While it’s nice that Google banned suspicious developers and apps, the banns are usually reactions when the problem has already happened, rather than preventive. One of the best preventive strategies you can use for your Android device is to use a good antimalware application to help you reduce the risk if you come across a malicious app. But you can also get an idea of whether an app is suspicious or even malicious simply by checking the permissions it requests when you install it.
App permissions are an easy way to judge whether or not an app is secure before downloading it. I say “safe” instead of directly saying that it is malware, because some applications are free of malicious code and leave your data alone, but they could still try to exploit you in other ways. And even if an application is not doing anything suspicious, depending on the permissions you give it it could have access to certain functions or data types with which you are not comfortable.
You can check the permissions of an Android app in app stores like Google Play and Amazon before downloading them.
- Access the page of an application in the Google Play Store
- Scroll to the bottom of the page until you reach “Permissions”
- Click “View details”
- The page will show you a list of permissions that the application requests when you install it.
Amazon App Store
- Access the app page in the Amazon store
- Click “See all app permissions” or scroll down to “Technical Details”
How to check the permissions of an installed application
The applications will request permissions while they are installed or the first time you open them or use one of their functions. In the same way, you can check the permissions of any app that you currently have installed through the configuration application of your Android device. The permissions menu is located in different places depending on the device you have, but you should be able to search for “Permissions” and directly access this section. There you will find all the installed apps and each type of permission you have. Be sure to review them thoroughly.
But what exactly should you look for? Well, basically any permission that seems out of place or unnecessary. These are some good examples of Cybernews article about the recent 2NAD malware summary:
- A call recording app that wants permissions to take photos and record videos.
- A calculator app that asks your camera and phone status for permission, allowing them to view your cellular network information, phone bills, and call status.
- A double account app that wants to access your GPS, camera, microphone, body sensors or calendar, and that requests permissions to view and edit your contacts, to view and edit your files, check the status of your phone and much more.
- A photo editor that wants permissions to record audio.
- A memory management app that wants your exact location.
- An app to cool the phone that wants to see and edit your files, get your location and read the status of your phone.
These are not all possible scenarios, but it should serve to understand that an application should not ask for permissions unrelated to its intended functions. If it does and raises your suspicions, remove it, or at least take a few minutes to do a little more research and decide if this app is right for your device.