Category Archives: Android

FaceApp privacy panic: Be careful which apps you use

The privacy panic over FaceApp, the selfie-editing mobile app that makes photo subjects younger, older or turns them into members of the opposite sex, has been overblown. The (overblown) issue FaceApp is an iOS and Android app developed by Russian company Wireless Lab and is not without past controversy (e.g., lightening skin color to make users “hot”). In this latest bout of massive popularity, the app makers were “accused” of siphoning pictures from users’ mobile … More

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Media File Jacking allows manipulating media files users receive via Android WhatsApp and Telegram

Media File Jacking – Security researchers at Symantec demonstrated how to manipulate media files that can be received via WhatsApp and Telegram Android apps.

Security experts at Symantec devised an attack technique dubbed Media File Jacking that could allow attackers to manipulate media files that can be received via WhatsApp and Telegram Android apps. The issue could potentially affect many other Android apps as well.

The attack technique leverages the fact that any app installed on a device can access and rewrite files saved in the external storage, including the files saved by other apps. Popular apps like WhatsApp and Telegram allow users to choose where to store the file. The researchers pointed out that unlike Telegram for Android.

Anyway, many Telegram users prefer to save their data to external storage using the “Save to Gallery” option.

“The security flaw, dubbed “Media File Jacking”, affects WhatsApp for Android by default, and Telegram for Android if certain features are enabled.” reads the report published by Symantec. “It stems from the lapse in time between when media files received through the apps are written to the disk, and when they are loaded in the apps’ chat user interface (UI) for users to consume.”

A malicious app installed on the recipient’s device can intercept and manipulate media files, including photos, documents, or videos stored on the external storage, that are exchanged between users. The attack is completely transparent for the recipient that is not able to see any suspicious activity.

“The fact that files are stored in, and loaded from, external storage without proper security mechanisms, allows other apps with write-to-external storage permission to risk the integrity of the media files,” continues the analysis. ” Write-to-external storage (WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE) is a common permission requested by Android apps, with over a million apps in Google Play having this access. In fact, based on our internal app data, we found nearly 50% of a given device’s apps have this permission.”

media file jacking attack

Researchers presented four attack scenarios that see a malicious app manipulating media files sent to the recipient:

  1. Image manipulation

The malicious, app downloaded by a user can run in the background to perform a Media File Jacking attack while the victim uses WhatsApp or Telegram and manipulate images in near-real-time.

2.) Payment manipulation

The attackers can manipulate an invoice sent by a vendor to the recipient and trick them into making a payment.

3.) Audio message spoofing

Attackers can use voice reconstruction via deep learning technology to modify the original audio message for malicious purposes.

4.) Spread fake news

In Telegram, attackers can carry out Media File Jacking attacks to alter media files that appear in a trusted channel feed in real-time to spread fake news.

To ensure that media files are kept safe from attackers, Symantec provides the following recommendations:

  • Validate the integrity of files: Store in a metadata file a hash value for each received media file before writing it to the disk. Then, confirm that the file has not been changed (i.e. the hash is the same) before the media file is loaded by the app in the relevant chat portion for users to see. This step can help developers validate that files were not manipulated before they are loaded. This approach balances between the security (protection against Media File Jacking attacks) and functionality (e.g., supporting third party backup apps) needs of the IM apps.
     
  • Internal storage: If possible, store media files in a non-public directory, such as internal storage. This is a measure some IM apps have chosen.
     
  • Encryption: Strive to encrypt sensitive files, as is usually done for text messages in modern IM solutions. This measure, as well as the previous one, will better protect files from exposure and manipulation. The downside is that other apps, such as photo backup apps, won’t be able to easily access these files.

Symantec shared its findings with both Telegram and WhatsApp, the experts explained that the vulnerability will be addressed by Google with the Android Q update.

“With the release of Android Q, Google plans to enact changes to the way apps access files on a device’s external storage. Android’s planned Scoped Storage is more restrictive, which may help mitigate threats like the WhatsApp/Telegram flaw we found.”concludes Symantec. “Scoped Storage means that apps will have their own storage area in an app-specific directory, but will be prevented from accessing files in the entire storage partition, unless an explicit permission is granted by the user.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Media File Jacking, hacking)

The post Media File Jacking allows manipulating media files users receive via Android WhatsApp and Telegram appeared first on Security Affairs.

Is Your WhatsApp Being Weird? You May Need to Check For Hidden Malware

With over 2.5 billion monthly active users that have accumulated since its fruition, Android has seen massive growth over the last 10 years. With so many users, it’s no wonder why cybercriminals continuously look to exploit Android devices. In fact, 25 million Android users have recently been hit with a new malware.

Dubbed Agent Smith, this cyberthreat sneaks onto a user’s device when the user downloads a malicious app from the app store, like a photo utility or game app. The app then silently installs the malware disguised as a legitimate Google updating tool. However, no updating icon appears on the screen, making the user oblivious to their device being in danger. Once installed, the malware replaces legitimate apps on the user’s phone, such as WhatsApp, with an evil update that serves bad ads. According to security researchers, the ads themselves aren’t malicious. But if a victim accidentally clicks on the ad, the hackers can make money from these ad fraud schemes. What’s more, there’s potential that these bad ads aren’t limited to just WhatsApp and could be found on other platforms as well.

So, what can Android users do to prevent this malware from sneaking onto their device? Check out the following tips to help stay secure:

  • Be wary of WhatsApp ads. Android users should take action if they experience advertisements displayed at strange times, such as when they open WhatsApp. The legitimate WhatsApp does not serve ads, so if you experience ads on this platform your device might have been infected.
  • Look out for suspicious apps. Check the apps and notifications section of your Android settings. If you see suspicious apps with names such as Google Updater, Google Installer for U, Google Powers, and Google Installer, uninstall these apps right away.
  • Stay away from unofficial Android stores. Google has extra precautions designed to prevent malware from getting onto the official Android store website, so only downloading apps from there could help protect you.
  • Use a security solution. A solution like McAfee Mobile Security can help Android users stay protected from threats like mobile malware. It also provides a free antivirus cleaner and phone security app to protect your online privacy and enhance device performance.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Is Your WhatsApp Being Weird? You May Need to Check For Hidden Malware appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Smashing Security #135: Zombie grannies and unintended leaks

We take a bloodied baseball bat to Android malware, and debate the merits of a social media strike, as one of the team bites the bullet and buys a smart lock for the office.

All this and much more is discussed in the latest edition of the award-winning “Smashing Security” podcast by computer security veterans Graham Cluley and Carole Theriault, joined this week by Oli Skertchly.

Tracing the Supply Chain Attack on Android

Earlier this month, Google disclosed that a supply chain attack by one of its vendors resulted in malicious software being pre-installed on millions of new budget Android devices. Google didn’t exactly name those responsible, but said it believes the offending vendor uses the nicknames “Yehuo” or “Blazefire.” What follows is a deep dive into the identity of that Chinese vendor, which appears to have a long and storied history of pushing the envelope on mobile malware.

“Yehuo” () is Mandarin for “wildfire,” so one might be forgiven for concluding that Google was perhaps using another dictionary than most Mandarin speakers. But Google was probably just being coy: The vendor in question appears to have used both “blazefire” and “wildfire” in two of many corporate names adopted for the same entity.

An online search for the term “yehuo” reveals an account on the Chinese Software Developer Network which uses that same nickname and references the domain blazefire[.]com. More searching points to a Yehuo user on gamerbbs[.]cn who advertises a mobile game called “Xiaojun Junji,” and says the game is available at blazefire[.]com.

Research on blazefire[.]com via Domaintools.com shows the domain was assigned in 2015 to a company called “Shanghai Blazefire Network Technology Co. Ltd.” just a short time after it was registered by someone using the email address “tosaka1027@gmail.com“.

The Shanghai Blazefire Network is part of a group of similarly-named Chinese entities in the “mobile phone pre-installation business and in marketing for advertisers’ products to install services through mobile phone installed software.”

“At present, pre-installed partners cover the entire mobile phone industry chain, including mobile phone chip manufacturers, mobile phone design companies, mobile phone brand manufacturers, mobile phone agents, mobile terminal stores and major e-commerce platforms,” reads a descriptive blurb about the company.

A historic records search at Domaintools on that tosaka1027@gmail.com address says it was used to register 24 Internet domain names, including at least seven that have been conclusively tied to the spread of powerful Android mobile malware.

Two of those domains registered to tosaka1027@gmail.com — elsyzsmc[.]com and rurimeter[.]com — were implicated in propagating the Triada malware. Triada is the very same malicious software Google said was found pre-installed on many of its devices and being used to install spam apps that display ads.

In July 2017, Russian antivirus vendor Dr.Web published research showing that Triada had been installed by default on at least four low-cost Android models. In 2018, Dr.Web expanded its research when it discovered the Triada malware installed on 40 different models of Android devices.

At least another five of the domains registered to tosaka1027@gmail.com — 99youx[.]com, buydudu[.]com, kelisrim[.]com, opnixi[.]com and sonyba[.]comwere seen as early as 2016 as distribution points for the Hummer Trojan, a potent strain of Android malware often bundled with games that completely compromises the infected device.

A records search at Domaintools for “Shanghai Blazefire Network Technology Co” returns 11 domains, including blazefire[.]net, which is registered to a yehuo@blazefire.net. For the remainder of this post, we’ll focus on the bolded domain names below:

Domain Name      Create Date   Registrar
2333youxi[.]com 2016-02-18 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
52gzone[.]com 2012-11-26 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
91gzonep[.]com 2012-11-26 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
blazefire[.]com 2000-08-24 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
blazefire[.]net 2010-11-22 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
hsuheng[.]com 2015-03-09 GODADDY.COM, LLC
jyhxz.net 2013-07-02 —
longmen[.]com 1998-06-19 GODADDY.COM, LLC
longmenbiaoju[.]com 2012-12-09 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
oppayment[.]com 2013-10-09 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD
tongjue[.]net 2014-01-20 ALIBABA CLOUD COMPUTING (BEIJING) CO., LTD

Following the breadcrumbs from some of the above domains we can see that “Blazefire” is a sprawling entity with multiple business units and names. For example, 2333youxi[.]com is the domain name for Shanghai Qianyou Network Technology Co., Ltd., a firm that says it is “dedicated to the development and operation of Internet mobile games.”

Like the domain blazefire[.]com, 2333youxi[.]com also was initially registered to tosaka1027@gmail.com and soon changed to Shanghai Blazefire as the owner.

The offices of Shanghai Quianyou Network — at Room 344, 6th Floor, Building 10, No. 196, Ouyang Rd, Shanghai, China — are just down the hall from Shanghai Wildfire Network Technology Co., Ltd., reportedly at Room 35, 6th Floor, Building 10, No. 196, Ouyang Rd, Shanghai.

The domain tongjue[.]net is the Web site for Shanghai Bronze Network Technology Co., Ltd., which appears to be either another name for or a sister company to Shanghai Tongjue Network Technology Co., Ltd.  According to its marketing literature, Shanghai Tongjue is situated one door down from the above-mentioned Shanghai Quianyou Network — at Room 36, 6th Floor, Building 10, No. 196, Ouyang Road.

“It has developed into a large domestic wireless Internet network application,” reads a help wanted ad published by Tongjue in 2016.  “The company is mainly engaged in mobile phone pre-installation business.”

That particular help wanted ad was for a “client software development” role at Tongjue. The ad said the ideal candidate for the position would have experience with “Windows Trojan, Virus or Game Plug-ins.” Among the responsibilities for this position were:

-Crack the restrictions imposed by the manufacturer on the mobile phone.
-Research and master the android [operating] system
-Reverse the root software to study the root of the android mobile phone
-Research the anti-brushing and provide anti-reverse brushing scheme

WHO IS BLAZEFIRE/YEHUO?

Many of the domains mentioned above have somewhere in their registration history the name “Hsu Heng” and the email address yehuo@blazefire.net. Based on an analysis via cyber intelligence firm 4iq.com of passwords and email addresses exposed in multiple data breaches in years past, the head of Blazefire goes by the nickname “Hagen” or “Haagen” and uses the email “chuda@blazefire.net“.

Searching on the phrase “chuda” in Mandarin turns up a 2016 story at the Chinese gaming industry news site Youxiguancha.com that features numerous photos of Blazefire employees and their offices. That story also refers to the co-founder and CEO of Blazefire variously as “Chuda” and “Chu da”.

“Wildfire CEO Chuda is a tear-resistant boss with both sports (Barcelona hardcore fans) and literary genre (playing a good guitar),” the story gushes. “With the performance of leading the wildfire team and the wildfire product line in 2015, Chu has won the top ten new CEO awards from the first Black Rock Award of the Hardcore Alliance.”

Interestingly, the registrant name “Chu Da” shows up in the historical domain name records for longmen[.]com, perhaps Shanghai Wildfire’s oldest and most successful mobile game ever. That record, from April 2015, lists Chu Da’s email address as yehuo@blazefire.com.

The CEO of Wildfire/Blazefire, referred to only as “Chuda” or “Hagen.”

It’s not clear if Chuda is all or part of the CEO’s real name, or just a nickname; the vice president of the company lists their name simply as “Hua Wei,” which could be a real name or a pseudonymous nod to the embattled Chinese telecom giant by the same name.

According to this cached document from Chinese business lookup service TianYanCha.com, Chuda also is a senior executive at six other companies.

Google declined to elaborate on its blog post. Shanghai Wildfire did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It’s perhaps worth noting that while Google may be wise to what’s cooking over at Shanghai Blazefire/Wildfire Network Technology Co., Apple still has several of the company’s apps available for download from the iTunes store, as well as others from Shanghai Qianyou Network Technology.

3 Tips for Protecting Against the New WhatsApp Bug

Messaging apps are a common form of digital communication these days, with Facebook’s WhatsApp being one of the most popular options out there. The communication platform boasts over 1.5 billion users – who now need to immediately update the app due to a new security threat. In fact, WhatsApp just announced a recently discovered security vulnerability that exposes both iOS and Android devices to malicious spyware.

So, how does this cyberthreat work, exactly? Leveraging the new WhatsApp bug, hackers first begin the scheme by calling an innocent user via the app. Regardless of whether the user picks up or not, the attacker can use that phone call to infect the device with malicious spyware. From there, crooks can potentially snoop around the user’s device, likely without the victim’s knowledge.

Fortunately, WhatsApp has already issued a patch that solves for the problem – which means users will fix the bug if they update their app immediately. But that doesn’t mean users shouldn’t still keep security top of mind now and in the future when it comes to messaging apps and the crucial data they contain. With that said, here are a few security steps to follow:

  • Flip on automatic updates. No matter the type of application or platform, it’s always crucial to keep your software up-to-date, as fixes for vulnerabilities are usually included in each new version. Turning on automatic updates will ensure that you are always equipped with the latest security patches.
  • Be selective about what information you share. When chatting with fellow users on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, it’s important you’re always careful of sharing personal data. Never exchange financial information or crucial personal details over the app, as they can possibly be stolen in the chance your device does become compromised with spyware or other malware.
  • Protect your mobile phones from spyware. To help prevent your device from becoming compromised by malicious software, such as this WhatsApp spyware, be sure to add an extra layer of security to it by leveraging a mobile security solution. With McAfee Mobile Security being available for both iOS and Android, devices of all types will remain protected from cyberthreats.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Wi-Fi Woes: Android Hotspot App Leaves 2 Million Passwords Exposed

Logging onto a free Wi-Fi network can be tempting, especially when you’re out running errands or waiting to catch a flight at the airport. But this could have serious cybersecurity consequences. One popular Android app, which allowed anyone to search for nearby Wi-Fi networks, was recently left exposed, leaving a database containing over 2 million network passwords unprotected.

How exactly were these passwords exposed? The app, which had been downloaded by millions of users, allowed anyone to search for Wi-Fi networks in their area. The app also lets users upload their Wi-Fi network passwords from their devices to its database for others to use. When the database was left exposed and unprotected, anyone could access and download its contents. Each record in the database contained the Wi-Fi network name, its precise geolocation, its basic service set identifier, and the network password in plaintext. Because the app didn’t require users to obtain permission from the network owner, it would be quite easy for a cybercriminal to modify router settings and point unsuspecting users to malicious websites. What’s more, a threat actor could also read unencrypted traffic that goes across a wireless network, allowing them to steal passwords and private data.

Thankfully, the web host was able to take down the database containing the Wi-Fi passwords within a day of being notified. But it’s important for users to be aware of the cybersecurity implications that free or public Wi-Fi presents. Check out the following tips to help protect your data:

  • Change your Wi-Fi password. If you think your password may have been affected by this exposure, err on the side of caution and reset it. Be sure to make your new password complex and unique.
  • Keep your network password private. Wi-Fi networks could be susceptible to a number of threats if their passwords are left in the wrong hands. Only share your passwords with family, friends, and those you trust, and never upload your password to a public database for strangers to use.
  • Safeguard your online privacy. Use a security solution like McAfee Safe Connect to encrypt your online activity, protect your privacy by hiding your IP address, and better defend against cybercriminals.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home

Like most parents, before you go to sleep each night, you take extra care to lock doors and windows to keep your family safe from any outside threats. The only thing you may have overlooked is the smartphone illuminated on your nightstand. And if you were to add up the smartphones humming all over your house, suddenly you’d have a number of unlocked doors that a determined criminal could enter through. Maybe not tonight — but eventually.

Digital Ecosystem

Over time you’ve purchased and plugged in devices throughout your home. You might have a voice assistant, a baby monitor, a thermostat, a treadmill, a gaming system, a fitness watch, smart TVs, a refrigerator, and many other fun, useful gadgets. Each purchase likely connects to your smartphone. Take stock: You now have a digital ecosystem growing all around you. And while you rarely stop to take notice of this invisible power grid around you, hackers can’t stop thinking about it.

This digital framework that pulsates within your home gives cybercriminals potential new entryways into your life and your data. Depending on your devices, by accessing your smartphone, outsiders may be able to unlock your literal doors while you are away (via your home security system), eavesdrop on your family conversations and collect important information (via your voice assistant), access financial information (via your gaming system, tablet, or laptop).

What you can do:

  • Change factory security settings. Before you fire up that smart TV, drone, or sound system, be sure to change each product’s factory settings and replace it with a bulletproof password to put a layer of protection between you and would-be hackers.
  • Protect your home network. We are connected people living in connected homes. So, part of the wired lifestyle is taking the lead on doing all we can to protect it. One way to do that is at the router level with built-in network security, which can help secure your connected devices.
  • Stay on top of software updates. Cybercrooks rely on consumers to ignore software updates; it makes their job so much easier. So be sure to install updates to your devices, security software, and IoT products when alerted to do so.

Smartphone = Front Gate

The most common entry point to all of these connected things is your smartphone. While you’ve done a lot of things to protect your phone — a lock screen, secure passwords on accounts, and system updates — there are hacking tactics you likely know nothing about. According to McAfee’s recent  Mobile Threat Report, you don’t know because the scope and complexity of mobile hacks are increasing at alarming rates.

Hidden Apps

The latest statistics report that the average person has between 60-90 apps installed on their phones. Multiply that between all the users in your home, and you are looking at anywhere from 200-500 apps living under your digital roof. Hackers gravitate toward digital trends. They go where the most people congregate because that’s where they can grab the most money. Many of us control everything in our homes from our apps, so app downloads are off the charts, which is why crooks have engineered some of their most sophisticated schemes specifically around app users.

Hidden apps are a way that crooks trick users into letting them inside their phones. Typically, hidden apps (such as TimpDoor) get to users via Google Play when they download games or customized tools. TimpDoor will then directly communicate with users via a text with a link to a voice message that gives detailed instructions to enable apps from unknown sources. That link downloads malware which will run in the background after the app closes. Users often forget they’ve downloaded this and go on with life while the malware runs in the background and can access other internal networks on the smartphone.

What you can do:

  • Stay alert. Don’t fall for the traps or click links to other apps sent via text message.
  • Stay legit. Only download apps hosted by the original trusted stores and verified partner sites.
  • Avoid spam. Don’t click on any email links, pop-ups, or direct messages that include suspicious links, password prompts, or fake attachments. Delete and block spam emails and texts.
  • Disable and delete. If you are not using an app, disable it. And, as a safety habit, remove apps from your phone, tablet, or laptop you no longer use.

Fake Apps

Again, crooks go where the most people congregate, and this year it is the 60 million+ downloaded game Fortnite. The Fortnite craze has lead hackers to design fake Fortnite apps masquerading as the real thing. The fraudulent app designers go to great lengths to make the download look legitimate. They offer enticing downloads and promise users a ton of free perks and add ons. Once users download the fake app, crooks can collect money through ads, send text messages with more bad app links, crypto jack users, or install malware or spyware.

What you can do:

  • Don’t install apps from unknown sources. Not all gaming companies distribute via Google Play or the App Store. This makes it even harder for users to know that the app they are downloading is legit. Do all you can to verify the legitimacy of the site you are downloading from.
  • Delete suspicious acting apps. If you download an app and it begins to request access to anything outside of its service, delete it immediately from your device.
  • Update devices regularly. Keep new bugs and threats at bay by updating your devices automatically.
  • Monitor bank statements. Check statements regularly to monitor the activity of the card linked to your Fortnite account. If you notice repeat or multiple transactions from your account or see charges that you don’t recognize, alert your bank immediately.
  • Be a savvy app user. Verify an app’s legitimacy. Read other user reviews and be discerning before you download anything. This practice also applies to partner sites that sell game hacks, credits, patches, or virtual assets players use to gain rank within a game. Beware of “free” downloads and avoid illegal file-sharing sites. Free downloads can be hotbeds for malware. Stick with the safer, paid options from a reputable source.

The post Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Basic Android Apps Are Charging High Subscription Fees With Deceptive Tactics

Free apps have a lot of appeal for users. They don’t cost a cent and can help users complete tasks on-the-go. However, users should take precautions before installing any app on their device. Researchers here at McAfee have observed some Android apps using extremely deceptive techniques to try and trick users into signing up for a very expensive service plan to use basic tool functionalities like voice recording and opening zip files.

The two apps being called into question, “Voice recorder free” and “Zip File Reader,” have been downloaded over 600,000 times combined. So at first glance, users may assume that these are reputable apps. Once installed, they offer the user an option to use a “Free trial” or to “Pay now.” If the user selects the trial version, they are presented with a subscription page to enter their credit card details for when the three-day trial is over. However, these apps charge a ridiculously high amount once the trial is up. “Voice recorder free” charges a whopping $242 a month and “Zip File Reader” charges $160 a week.

Users who have downloaded these apps and then deleted them after their free trial may be surprised to know that uninstalling the app will not cancel the subscription, so they could still be charged these astronomical amounts for weeks without realizing it. While this is not technically illegal, it is a deceptive tactic that app developers are using to try to make an easy profit off of consumers who might forget to cancel their free trial.

With that said, there are a few things users can do to avoid becoming victim to deceptive schemes such as these in the future. Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to downloading free apps:

  • Be vigilant and read app reviews. Even if an app has a lot of downloads, make sure to comb through all of the reviews and read up before downloading anything to your device.
  • Read the fine print. If you decide to install an app with a free trial, make sure you understand what fees you will be charged if you keep the subscription.
  • Remember to cancel your subscription. If you find a reputable free app that you’ve researched and want to use for a trial period, remember to cancel the subscription before uninstalling the app off your device. Instructions on canceling, pausing, and changing a subscription can be found on Google Play’s Help page.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Basic Android Apps Are Charging High Subscription Fees With Deceptive Tactics appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Google Play Protect in 2018: New updates to keep Android users secure


Posted by Rahul Mishra and Tom Watkins, Android Security & Privacy Team
[Cross-posted from the Android Developers Blog]

In 2018, Google Play Protect made Android devices running Google Play some of the most secure smartphones available, scanning over 50 billion apps everyday for harmful behaviour.
Android devices can genuinely improve people's lives through our accessibility features, Google Assistant, digital wellbeing, Family Link, and more — but we can only do this if they are safe and secure enough to earn users' long term trust. This is Google Play Protect's charter and we're encouraged by this past year's advancements.

Google Play Protect, a refresher

Google Play Protect is the technology we use to ensure that any device shipping with the Google Play Store is secured against potentially harmful applications (PHA). It is made up of a giant backend scanning engine to aid our analysts in sourcing and vetting applications made available on the Play Store, and built-in protection that scans apps on users' devices, immobilizing PHA and warning users.
This technology protects over 2 billion devices in the Android ecosystem every day.

What's new

On by default
We strongly believe that security should be a built-in feature of every device, not something a user needs to find and enable. When security features function at their best, most users do not need to be aware of them. To this end, we are pleased to announce that Google Play Protect is now enabled by default to secure all new devices, right out of the box. The user is notified that Google Play Protect is running, and has the option to turn it off whenever desired.

New and rare apps
Android is deployed in many diverse ways across many different users. We know that the ecosystem would not be as powerful and vibrant as it is today without an equally diverse array of apps to choose from. But installing new apps, especially from unknown sources, can carry risk.
Last year we launched a new feature that notifies users when they are installing new or rare apps that are rarely installed in the ecosystem. In these scenarios, the feature shows a warning, giving users pause to consider whether they want to trust this app, and advising them to take additional care and check the source of installation. Once Google has fully analyzed the app and determined that it is not harmful, the notification will no longer display. In 2018, this warning showed around 100,000 times per day
Context is everything: warning users on launch
It's easy to misunderstand alerts when presented out of context. We're trained to click through notifications without reading them and get back to what we were doing as quickly as possible. We know that providing timely and context-sensitive alerts to users is critical for them to be of value. We recently enabled a security feature first introduced in Android Oreo which warns users when they are about to launch a potentially harmful app on their device.

This new warning dialog provides in-context information about which app the user is about to launch, why we think it may be harmful and what might happen if they open the app. We also provide clear guidance on what to do next. These in-context dialogs ensure users are protected even if they accidentally missed an alert.
Auto-disabling apps
Google Play Protect has long been able to disable the most harmful categories of apps on users devices automatically, providing robust protection where we believe harm will be done.
In 2018, we extended this coverage to apps installed from Play that were later found to have violated Google Play's policies, e.g. on privacy, deceptive behavior or content. These apps have been suspended and removed from the Google Play Store.
This does not remove the app from user device, but it does notify the user and prevents them from opening the app accidentally. The notification gives the option to remove the app entirely.
Keeping the Android ecosystem secure is no easy task, but we firmly believe that Google Play Protect is an important security layer that's used to protect users devices and their data while maintaining the freedom, diversity and openness that makes Android, well, Android.
Acknowledgements: This post leveraged contributions from Meghan Kelly and William Luh.