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Sneaky Fake Apps Hide Adware

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by | Filed Under: Android, Security Help

Security researchers are warning people to look out for fake apps that disguise themselves as popular apps like Facebook and Snapchat, but instead take over your device and give themselves high-level permissions.



What’s worse, they are pretty darn hard to get off your device. While adware has always been aggressive at getting onto devices, sometimes attaching itself to free downloads when you forget to check a box, this new type has been trojanized. That means it sneaks onto your device and worms itself into your system. Even doing a factory reset will not remove this adware.

Lookout Security says the company has detected more than 20,000 samples of this type of adware.

These crooks pretend to be legitimate apps like Candy Crush, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

How do they do it? They take copies of the legitimate apps from the Google Play Store and then inject their own malicious software into the app. Then they put the apps up in third-party app stores.

These fake apps look and actually function pretty much like the real thing. There’s really no way you could tell the difference. But silently in the background, the malicious code is at work, writing itself into the basic programming of your device.

And because it writes itself into the root of your device, simply resetting the device or removing the app won’t help rid yourself of these bugs. You’d have to take it to a code expert or get a new phone or tablet.

Now, these apps are only found in third-party app stores. Your would first need to root your tablet and then install a third-party app store.

Some people prefer to do this because they want complete control over their tablet and want offerings outside of the selections offered in the Google Play Store.

However, that comes with risks, like this adware. For safety’s sake, you’re a lot better off sticking to the Google Play store.

~ Cynthia

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3 Responses to “Sneaky Fake Apps Hide Adware”

  1. Lamar Wilkie says:

    Thank you for the article, but I would like to point out one inaccuracy. The problem is that users do NOT have to root their phones to get a 3rd party app on their devices. All they have to do is turn on “unknown sources” in Settings –> Security to allow non-Google Play apps to install (which is necessary in the case of the Amazon App Store). The malicious program then roots the phone by itself, installing as a system app, and allowing other malicious apps to install in the background. The only fix is to re-flash the phone’s operating system, which is neither easy nor cheap (if you have to send the phone back to the manufacturer). Or get a new device.

    The easy solution is to keep “unknown sources” turned off and stay on Google Play. Avoid 3rd party app stores (especially those that provide paid apps for free – the only free cheese is in the mousetrap).

  2. Jesse Clear says:

    Yeah … I got a brand new MOTO E 4lte (great fone by the way). Between Moto and my Magic-Jack, I run 9/10th of my commodities brokerage off of them. But I bit for a bells-n-whistles notification app called Flashlight. Took it about a minute to wrap up my phone in barbwire. Under warranty, I reached my carrier Consumer Cellular. They were totally helpful, actually put my replacement in the mail before I’d sent ed Moto back to them. The second Moto is a dream. And I learned a hard lesson about 3rd party freebies!

  3. Shanker says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    Thank You. However, I feel uncomfortable with your suggestion to stay with ‘Google/Amazon Play Store’, as it promotes their domination. They already control us beyond our comfort levels. I suggest better alternatives, say a safe list. It would be nice that Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware folks soon come to our rescue too!

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