Category Archives: app security

3 Tips Venmo Users Should Follow to Keep Their Transactions Secure

You’ve probably heard of Venmo, the quick and convenient peer-to-peer mobile payments app. From splitting the check when eating out with friends to dividing the cost of bills, Venmo is an incredibly easy way to share money. However, users’ comfort with the app can sometimes result in a few negligent security practices. In fact, computer science student Dan Salmon recently scraped seven million Venmo transactions to prove that users’ public activity can be easily obtained if they don’t have the right security settings flipped on. Let’s explore his findings.

By scraping the company’s developer API, Salmon was able to download millions of transactions across a six-month span. That means he was able to see who sent money to who, when they sent it, and why – just as long as the transaction was set to “public.” Mind you, Salmon’s download comes just a year after that of a German researcher, who downloaded over 200 million transactions from the public-by-default app last year.

These data scrapes, if anything, act as a demonstration. They prove to users just how crucial it is to set up online mobile payment apps with caution and care. Therefore, if you’re a Venmo or other mobile payment app user, make sure to follow these tips in order to keep your information secure:

  • Set your settings to “private” immediately. Only the sender and receiver should know about a monetary transaction in the works. So, whenever you go to send money on Venmo or any other mobile payment app, make sure the transaction is set to “private.” For Venmo users specifically, you can flip from “public” to “private” by just toggling the setting at the bottom right corner of main “Pay or Request” page.
  • Limit the amount of data you share. Just because something is designed to be social doesn’t mean it should become a treasure trove of personal data. No matter the type of transaction you’re making, always try to limit the amount of personal information you include in the corresponding message. That way, any potential cybercriminals out there won’t be able to learn about your spending habits.
  • Add on extra layers of security. Beyond flipping on the right in-app security settings, it’s important to take any extra precautions you can when it comes to protecting your financial data. Create complex logins to your mobile payment apps, participate in biometric options if available, and ensure your mobile device itself has a passcode as well. This will all help ensure no one has access to your money but you.

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.

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1.1M Emuparadise Accounts Exposed in Data Breach

If you’re an avid gamer or know someone who is, you might be familiar with the retro gaming site Emuparadise. This website boasts a large community, a vast collection of gaming music, game-related videos, game guides, magazines, comics, video game translations, and more. Unfortunately, news just broke that Emuparadise recently suffered a data breach in April 2018, exposing the data of about 1.1 million of their forum members.

The operators of the hacked-database search engine, DeHashed, shared this compromised data with the data breach reference site Have I Been Pwned. According to the site’s owner Troy Hunt, the breach impacted 1,131,229 accounts and involved stolen email addresses, IP addresses, usernames, and passwords stored as salted MD5 hashes. Password salting is a process of securing passwords by inputting unique, random data to users’ passwords. However, the MD5 algorithm is no longer considered sufficient for protecting passwords, creating cause for cybersecurity concern.

Emuparadise forced a credential reset after the breach occurred in April 2018. It’s important that users of Emuparadise games take steps to help protect their private information. If you know someone who’s an avid gamer, pass along the following tips to help safeguard their security:

  • Change up your password. If you have an Emuparadise account, you should change up your account password and email password immediately. Make sure the next one you create is strong and unique so it’s more difficult for cybercriminals to crack. Include numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols. The more complex your password is, the better!
  • Keep an eye out for sketchy emails and messages. Cybercriminals can leverage stolen information for phishing emails and social engineering scams. If you see something sketchy or from an unknown source in your email inbox, be sure to avoid clicking on any links provided.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you or someone you know has made an Emuparadise account, use this tool to check if you could have been potentially affected.

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

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Are Your Kids Part of the TikTok App Craze? Here’s What Parents Need to Know

What phone app has over 150 million active users and more than 14 million uploads every day? You might guess Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, but you’d be wrong. Meet TikTok — a video app kids are flocking to that’s, no doubt, tons of fun but also carries risk.

What Is It?

TikTok is a free social media app that allows users to create and share short 15-second videos set to favorite music. If your child was a fan of Musical.ly, then he or she is probably active on TikTok since Musical.ly shut down last year and moved all of its users to TikTok. Kids love the app because it’s got all the social perks — music, filters, stickers — and the ability to amass likes and shares (yes, becoming TikTok-famous is an aspiration for some).

The Upside

There are a lot of positive things about this app. It’s filling the void of the sorely missed Vine app in that it’s a fun hub for video creation and peer connection. Spending time on TikTok will make you laugh out loud, sing, and admire the degree of creativity so many young users put into their videos. You will see everything from heartfelt, brave monologues, to incredible athletic stunts, to hilarious, random moments in the lives of teens. It’s serious fun.

Another big positive is the app appears to take Digital Wellbeing (tools in the app that encourage screen time), privacy, and online safety seriously. Its resources tab is rich with tips for both parents and kids.

The (Potential) Downside

As with any other social app, TikTok carries inherent risks, as reported by several news sources, including ABC.

For instance, anyone can view your child’s videos, send a direct message, and access their location information. And, while TikTok requires that users are at least 13 years old to use the app and anyone under 18 must have parent’s approval, if you browse the app, you’ll quickly find that plenty of preteens are using it. A predator could easily create a fake account or many accounts to strike up conversations with minors.

Another danger zone is inappropriate content. While a lot of TikTok content is fun and harmless, there’s a fair share of the music that includes explicit language and users posting content that should not be viewed by a young audience.

And, wherever there’s a public forum, there’s a risk of cyberbullying. When a TikTok user posts a video, that content instantly becomes open for public comment or criticism and dialogue can get mean.

Talking Points for Families

Most social media apps have an inherent risk factor because the world wide web is just that — much of the planet’s population in the palm of your child’s hand. Different age groups and kids will use apps differently. So, when it comes to apps, it’s a good idea to monitor how your child uses each app and tailor conversations from there.

  • Download the app. If your child uses TikTok, it’s a good idea to download the app too. Look around inside the community. Analyze the content and the culture. Are the accounts your child follows age appropriate? Are the comments and conversations positive? Does your child know his or her followers? Is your child posting appropriately?
  • Talk about the risks. Spend time with your child and watch how he or she uses TikTok. Let them teach you why they love it. Encourage creativity and fun, but don’t hesitate to point out danger zones and how your child can avoid them.
  • Monitor direct messages. This may seem invasive, but a lot of the safety threats to your child take place behind the curtain of the public feed in direct messages. Depending on the age of your child (and the established digital ground rules of your family) consider requiring access to his or her account.
  • Adjust settings. Make sure to click account settings to ‘private’ so only people your child knows can access his or her content and send direct messages. Also, turn off location services and consider getting comprehensive security software for all family devices.

Apps are where the fun is for kids so you can bet your child will at least check out buzz-worthy platforms like TikTok. They may browse, or they may become content creators. Your best social monitoring tool is to keep an open dialogue with your child. Keep talking with your kids about what’s going on in their digital life — where they hang out, who their friends are, and what’s new.  You may get some resistance but don’t let that stop you from doing all you can to keep your family safe online.

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Game Golf Exposure Leaves Users in a Sand Trap of Data Concerns

Apps not only provide users with a form of entertainment, but they also help us become more efficient or learn new things. One such app is Game Golf, which comes as a free app, a paid pro version with coaching tools, or with a wearable analyzer. With over 50,000 downloads on Google Play, the app helps golfers track their on-course performance and use the data to help improve their game. Unfortunately, millions of golfer records from the Game Golf app were recently exposed to anyone with an internet connection, thanks to a cloud database lacking password protection.

According to researchers, this exposure consisted of millions of records, including details on 134 million rounds of golf, 4.9 million user notifications, and 19.2 million records in an activity feed folder. Additionally, the database contained profile data like usernames, hashed passwords, emails, gender, Facebook IDs, and authorization tokens. The database also contained network information for the company behind the Game Golf app, Game Your Game Inc., including IP addresses, ports, pathways, and storage information that cybercrooks could potentially exploit to further access the network. A combination of all of this data could theoretically provide cybercriminals with more information on the user, creating greater privacy concerns. Thankfully, the database was secured about two weeks after the company was initially notified of the exposure.

Although it is still unclear as to whether cybercriminals took a swing at this data, the magnitude of the information exposed by the app is cause for concern. Luckily, users can follow these tips to help safeguard their data:

  • Change your passwords. If a cybercriminal got a hold of the exposed data, they could easily gain access into other online accounts if your login credentials were the same across different platforms. Err on the side of caution and change your passwords to something strong and unique for each account.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you’ve used the Game Golf app and believe your data might have been exposed, use this tool to check or set an alert to be notified of other potential exposures.
  • Secure your online profiles. Use a security solution like McAfee Safe Connect to encrypt your online activity, help 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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Breaches and Bugs: How Secure are Your Family’s Favorite Apps?

app safety

app safetyIs your family feeling more vulnerable online lately? If so, you aren’t alone. The recent WhatsApp bug and social media breaches recently have app users thinking twice about security.

Hackers behind the recent WhatsApp malware attack, it’s reported, could record conversations, steal private messages, grab photos and location data, and turn on a device’s camera and microphone. (Is anyone else feeling like you just got caught in the middle an episode of Homeland?)

There’s not much you and your family can do about an attack like this except to stay on top of the news, be sure to share knowledge and react promptly, and discuss device security in your home as much as possible.

How much does your family love its apps? Here’s some insight:

  • Facebook Messenger 3.408 billion downloads
  • WhatsApp 2.979 billion downloads
  • Instagram 1.843 billion downloads
  • Skype 1.039 billion downloads
  • Twitter 833.858 million downloads
  • Candy Crush 805.826 million downloads
  • Snapchat 782.837 million downloads

So, should you require your family to delete its favorite apps? Not even. A certain degree of vulnerability comes with the territory of a digital culture.

However, what you can and should do to ease that sense of vulnerability is to adopt proactive safety habits — and teach your kids — to layer up safeguards wherever possible.

Tips to Help Your Family Avoid Being Hacked

Don’t be complacent. Talk to your kids about digital responsibility and to treat each app like a potential doorway that could expose your family’s data. Take the time to sit down and teach kids how to lock down privacy settings and the importance of keeping device software updated. Counsel them not to accept data breaches as a regular part of digital life and how to fight back against online criminals with a security mindset.

Power up your passwords. Teach your kids to use unique, complex passwords for all of their apps and to use multi-factor authentication when it’s offered.

Auto update all apps. App developers regularly issue updates to fix security vulnerabilities. You can turn on auto updates in your device’s Settings.

Add extra security. If you can add a robust, easy-to-install layer of security to protect your family’s devices, why not? McAfee mobile solutions are available for both iOS and Android and will help safeguard devices from cyber threats.

Avoid suspicious links. Hackers send malicious links through text, messenger, email, pop-ups, or within the context of an ongoing conversation. Teach your kids to be aware of these tricks and not to click suspicious links or download unfamiliar content.

Share responsibly. When you use chat apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it’s easy to forget that an outsider can access your conversation. Remind your children that nothing is private — even messaging apps that feel as if a conversation is private. Hackers are looking for personal information (birthday, address, hometown, or names of family members and pets) to crack your passwords, steal your identity, or gain access to other accounts.

What to Do If You Get Hacked

If one of your apps is compromised, act quickly to minimize the fallout. If you’ve been hacked, you may notice your device running slowly, a drain on your data, strange apps on your home screen, and evidence of calls, texts or emails you did not send.

Social media accounts. For Facebook and other social accounts, change your password immediately and alert your contacts that your account was compromised.

Review your purchase history. Check to see if there are any new apps or games installed that you didn’t authorize. You may have to cancel the credit card associated with your Google Play or iTunes account.

Revoke app access, delete old apps. Sometimes it’s not a person but a malicious app you may have downloaded that is wreaking havoc on your device. Encourage your kids to go through their apps and delete suspicious ones as well as apps they don’t use.

Bugs and breaches are part of our digital culture, but we don’t have to resign ourselves to being targets. By sharing knowledge and teaching kids to put on a security mindset, together, you can stay one step ahead of a cybercrook’s digital traps.

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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, cybercriminals 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 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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The “Nasty List” Phishing Scam Is out to Steal Your Instagram Login

How often do you check your social media accounts? According to a recent study, internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking platforms. Since users are pretty reliant on social media, cybercriminals use it as an avenue to target victims with various cyberattacks. The latest social media scheme called “The Nasty List” scams users into giving up their Instagram credentials and uses their accounts to further promote the phishing scam.

So, how exactly do hackers trick innocent users into handing over their login information? Cybercriminals spread this scam by sending messages through hacked accounts to the user’s followers, stating that they were spotted on a “Nasty List.” These messages will read something like “OMG your actually on here, @TheNastyList_34, your number is 15! its really messed up.” If the recipient visits the profile listed in the message, they will see a link in the profile description. An example of one URL that has been listed in these scam profiles is nastylist-instatop50[.]me. The user is tricked into believing that this link will supposedly allow them to see why they are on this list. This link brings up what appears to be a legitimate Instagram login page. When the victim enters their credentials on the fake login page, the cybercriminals behind this scheme will be able to take over the account and use it to further promote the scam.

Images courtesy of Bleeping Computer.
Images courtesy of Bleeping Computer.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps Instagram users can take to ensure that they don’t fall victim to this trap. Check out the following tips:

  • Be skeptical of messages from unknown users. If you receive a message from someone you don’t know, it’s best to ignore the message altogether or block the user. Additionally, if you think a friend’s social media account has been compromised, look out for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in their message, which are common in these scams.
  • Exercise caution when inspecting links sent to your messages. Always inspect a URL before you click on it. In the case of this scam, the URL that appears with the fake login page is clearly incorrect, as it ends in a [.]me.
  • Reset your password. If your account was hacked by ‘The Nasty List’ but you still have access to your account, reset your password to regain control of your account.

And, as usual, 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.

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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.

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Facebook’s Plans to Merge Messaging Platforms: What This Means for Online Safety

Integration: it seems to be all the rage. As technology becomes more sophisticated, we sprint to incorporate these new innovations into our everyday lives. But as we celebrate Safer Internet Day, one can’t help but wonder, is all integration good when it comes to information shared online? Major privacy concerns have been raised surrounding Facebook’s recent plans to merge Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. This integration will allow cross-messaging between the three platforms (which will all still operate as standalone apps), so users could talk to their Messenger-only friends without leaving WhatsApp.

While Facebook’s plans to merge the messaging platforms are not yet finalized, the company is in the process of rebuilding the underlying infrastructure so that users who might utilize only one of the apps will be able to communicate with others within the company’s ecosystem. Facebook plans to include end-to-end encryption for the apps, ensuring that only the participants of a conversation can view the messages being sent. By allowing each app to speak to one another across platforms, Facebook hopes users become more engaged and use this as their primary messaging service.

But Facebook’s messaging changes have greater implications for online safety as consumers become more protective of their data. For example, WhatsApp only requires a phone number to sign up for the app while Facebook asks users to verify their identities. Will this force more data to be shared with WhatsApp, or will its encryption become less secure? While nothing has been finalized, it’s important for users to think about how the information they share online could be affected by this merge.

Although the internet has paved the way for advancements in social media and technology in general, users need to make sure they’re aware of the potential risks involved. And while this merge hasn’t happened yet, Safer Internet Day helps remind us to make good choices when it comes to browsing online. Following these tips can help keep you and your data safe and secure:

  • Get selective about what you share. Although social media is a great way to keep your friends and family in the loop on your daily life, be conservative about the information you put on the internet. Additionally, be cautious of what you send through messaging platforms, especially when it comes to your personally identifiable information.
  • Update your privacy settings. To make sure that you’re sharing your status with just your intended audience, check your privacy settings. Choose which apps you wish to share your location with and turn your profiles to private if you don’t want all users to have access to your information.
  • Keep your apps up-to-date. Keeping your social media apps updated can prevent exposure to threats brought on by software bugs. Turn on automatic updates so you always have the latest security patches, and make sure that your security software is set to run regular scans.
  • Click with caution. Cybercriminals can leverage social media messaging to spread phishing links. Don’t interact with users or messages that seem suspicious and keep your guard up by blocking unfamiliar users who try to send you sketchy content.
  • Stay secure while you browse online. Security solutions like McAfee WebAdvisor can help block malware and phishing sites if you accidentally click on a malicious link. This can help protect you from potential threats when you access your social channels from a desktop or laptop.

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

The post Facebook’s Plans to Merge Messaging Platforms: What This Means for Online Safety appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

MalBus: Popular South Korean Bus App Series in Google Play Found Dropping Malware After 5 Years of Development

McAfee’s Mobile Research team recently learned of a new malicious Android application masquerading as a plugin for a transportation application series developed by a South Korean developer. The series provides a range of information for each region of South Korea, such as bus stop locations, bus arrival times and so on. There are a total of four apps in the series, with three of them available from Google Play since 2013 and the other from around 2017. Currently, all four apps have been removed from Google Play while the fake plugin itself was never uploaded to the store. While analyzing the fake plugin, we were looking for initial downloaders and additional payloads – we discovered one specific version of each app in the series (uploaded at the same date) which was dropping malware onto the devices on which they were installed, explaining their removal from Google Play after 5 years of development.

Figure 1. Cached Google Play page of Daegu Bus application, one of the apps in series

When the malicious transportation app is installed, it downloads an additional payload from hacked web servers which includes the fake plugin we originally acquired. After the fake plugin is downloaded and installed, it does something completely different – it acts as a plugin of the transportation application and installs a trojan on the device, trying to phish users to input their Google account password and completely take control of the device. What is interesting is that the malware uses the native library to take over the device and also deletes the library to hide from detection. It uses names of popular South Korean services like Naver, KakaoTalk, Daum and SKT. According to our telemetry data, the number of infected devices was quite low, suggesting that the final payload was installed to only a small group of targets.

The Campaign

The following diagram explains the overall flow from malware distribution to device infection.

Figure 2. Device infection process

When the malicious version of the transportation app is installed, it checks whether the fake plugin is already installed and, if not, downloads from the server and installs it. After that, it downloads and executes an additional native trojan binary which is similar to the trojan which is dropped by the fake plugin. After everything is done, it connects with the C2 servers and handles received commands.

Initial Downloader

The following table shows information about the malicious version of each transportation app in the series. As the Google Play number of install stats shows, these apps have been downloaded on many devices.

Unlike the clean version of the app, the malicious version contains a native library named “libAudio3.0.so”.

Figure 3. Transportation app version with malicious native library embedded

In the BaseMainActivity class of the app, it loads the malicious library and calls startUpdate() and updateApplication().

Figure 4. Malicious library being loaded and executed in the app

startUpdate() checks whether the app is correctly installed by checking for the existence of a specific flag file named “background.png” and whether the fake plugin is installed already. If the device is not already infected, the fake plugin is downloaded from a hacked web server and installed after displaying a toast message to the victim. updateApplication() downloads a native binary from the same hacked server and dynamically loads it. The downloaded file (saved as libSound1.1.so) is then deleted after being loaded into memory and, finally, it executes an exported function which acts as a trojan. As previously explained, this file is similar to the file dropped by the fake plugin which is discussed later in this post.

Figure 5 Additional payload download servers

Fake Plugin

The fake plugin is downloaded from a hacked web server with file extension “.mov” to look like a media file. When it is installed and executed, it displays a toast message saying the plugin was successfully installed (in Korean) and calls a native function named playMovie(). The icon for the fake plugin soon disappears from the screen. The native function implemented in LibMovie.so, which is stored inside the asset folder, drops a malicious trojan to the current running app’s directory masquerading as libpng.2.1.so file. The dropped trojan is originally embedded in the LibMovie.so xor’ed, which is decoded at runtime. After giving permissions, the address of the exported function “Libfunc” in the dropped trojan is dynamically retrieved using dlsym(). The dropped binary in the filesystem is deleted to avoid detection and finally Libfunc is executed.

Figure 6 Toast message when malware is installed

In the other forked process, it tries to access the “naver.property” file on an installed SD Card, if there is one, and if it succeeds, it tries starting “.KaKaoTalk” activity which displays a Google phishing page (more on that in the next section) . The overall flow of the dropper is explained in the following diagram:

Figure 7. Execution flow of the dropper

Following is a snippet of a manifest file showing that “.KaKaoTalk” activity is exported.

Figure 8. Android Manifest defining “.KaKaoTalk” activity as exported

Phishing in JavaScript

KakaoTalk class opens a local HTML file, javapage.html, with the user’s email address registered on the infected device automatically set to log into their account.

Figure 9. KakaoTalk class loads malicious local html file

The victim’s email address is set to the local page through a JavaScript function setEmailAddress after the page is finished loading. A fake Korean Google login website is displayed:

Figure 10. The malicious JavaScript shows crafted Google login page with user account

We found the following attempts of exploitation of Google legitimate services by the malware author:

  • Steal victim’s Google account and password
  • Request password recovery for a specific account
  • Set recovery email address when creating new Google account

An interesting element of the phishing attack is that the malware authors tried to set their own email as the recovery address on Google’s legitimate services. For example, when a user clicks on the new Google account creation link in the phishing page, the crafted link is opened with the malware author’s email address as a parameter of RecoveryEmailAddress.

Figure 11. The crafted JavaScript attempts to set recovery email address for new Google account creation.

Fortunately for end users, none of the above malicious attempts are successful. The parameter with the malware author’s email address is simply ignored at the account creation stage.

Trojan

In addition to the Google phishing page, when “Libfunc” function of the trojan (dropped by the fake plugin or downloaded from the server) is executed, the mobile phone is totally compromised. It receives commands from the following hardcoded list of C2 servers. The main functionality of the trojan is implemented in a function called “doMainProc()”. Please note that there are a few variants of the trojanwith different functionality but, overall, they are pretty much the same.

Figure 12. Hardcoded list of C2 servers

The geolocation of hardcoded C2 servers lookslike the following:

Figure 13. Location of C2 Servers

Inside doMainProc(), the trojan receives commands from the C2 server and calls appropriate handlers. Part of the switch block below gives us an idea of what type of commands this trojan supports.

Figure 14. Subset of command handlers implemented in the dropped trojan.

As you can see, it has all the functionality that a normal trojan has. Downloading, uploading and deleting files on the device, leaking information to a remote server and so on. The following table explains supported C2 commands:

Figure 15. C2 Commands

Before entering the command handling loop, the trojan does some initialization, like sending device information files to the server and checking the UID of the device. Only after the UID checking returns a 1 does it enter the loop.

Figure 16 Servers connected before entering command loop

Among these commands, directory indexing in particular is important. The directory structure is saved in a file named “kakao.property” and while indexing the given path in the user device, it checks the file with specific keywords and if it matches, uploads the file to the remote upload server. These keywords are Korean and its translated English version is as per the following table:

Figure 17 Search file keywords

By looking at the keywords we can anticipate that the malware authors were looking for files related to the military, politics and so on. These files are uploaded to a separate server.

Figure 18 Keyword matching file upload server

Conclusion

Applications can easily trick users into installing them before then leaking sensitive information. Also, it is not uncommon to see malware sneaking onto the official Google Play store, making it hard for users to protect their devices. This malware has not been written for ordinary phishing attempts, but rather very targeted attacks, searching the victim’s devices for files related to the military and politics, likely trying to leak confidential information. Users should always install applications that they can fully trust even though they are downloaded from trusted sources.

McAfee Mobile Security detects this threat as Android/MalBus and alerts mobile users if it is present, while protecting them from any data loss. For more information about McAfee Mobile Security, visit https://www.mcafeemobilesecurity.com.

Hashes (SHA-256)

Initial Downloader (APK)
• 19162b063503105fdc1899f8f653b42d1ff4fcfcdf261f04467fad5f563c0270
• bed3e665d2b5fd53aab19b8a62035a5d9b169817adca8dfb158e3baf71140ceb
• 3252fbcee2d1aff76a9f18b858231adb741d4dc07e803f640dcbbab96db240f9
• e71dc11e8609f6fd84b7af78486b05a6f7a2c75ed49a46026e463e9f86877801

Fake Plugin (APK)
• ecb6603a8cd1354c9be236a3c3e7bf498576ee71f7c5d0a810cb77e1138139ec
• b8b5d82eb25815dd3685630af9e9b0938bccecb3a89ce0ad94324b12d25983f0

Trojan (additional payload)
• b9d9b2e39247744723f72f63888deb191eafa3ffa137a903a474eda5c0c335cf
• 12518eaa24d405debd014863112a3c00a652f3416df27c424310520a8f55b2ec
• 91f8c1f11227ee1d71f096fd97501c17a1361d71b81c3e16bcdabad52bfa5d9f
• 20e6391cf3598a517467cfbc5d327a7bb1248313983cba2b56fd01f8e88bb6b9

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Sharing Isn’t Always Caring: 3 Tips to Help Protect Your Online Privacy

It’s 2019 and technology is becoming more sophisticated and prevalent than ever. With more technology comes greater connectivity. In fact, by 2020, there will be more than 20 billion internet-connected devices around the world. This equates to more than four devices per person. As we adopt new technology into our everyday lives, it’s important to consider how this emerging technology could lead to greater privacy risks if we don’t take steps to protect our data. That’s why the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) started Data Privacy Day to help create awareness surrounding the importance of recognizing our digital footprints and safeguarding our data. To further investigate the impact of these footprints, let’s take a look at how we perceive the way data is shared and whose responsibility it is to keep our information safe.

The Impact of Social Media

Most of us interact with multiple social media platforms every day. And while social media is a great way to update your friends and family on your daily life, we often forget that these platforms also allow people we don’t really know to glimpse into our personal lives. For example, 82% of online stalkers use social media to find out information about potential victims, such as where they live or where they go to school. In other words, social media could expose your personal information to users beyond your intended audience.

Certain social media trends also bring up issues of privacy in the world of evolving technology. Take Facebook’s 10-year challenge, a recent viral trend encouraging users to post a side-by-side image of their profile pictures from 2009 and 2019. As WIRED reporter Katie O’Neill points out, the images offered in this trending challenge could potentially be used to train facial recognition software for age progression and age recognition. While the potential of this technology is mostly mundane, there is still a risk that this information could be used inequitably.

How to Approach Requests for Personal Data

Whether we’re using social media or other online resources, we all need to be aware of what personal data we’re offering out and consider the consequences of providing the information. While there are some instances where we can’t avoid sharing our personal data, such as for a government document or legal form, there are other areas where we can stand to be a little more conservative with the data that we divulge. For example, many of us have more than just our close family and friends on our social networks. So, if you’re sharing your location on your latest post, every single person who follows you has access to this information. The same goes for those online personality quizzes. While they may be entertaining, they put an unnecessary amount of your personal information out in the open. This is why it’s crucial to be thoughtful of how your data is collected and stored.

So, what steps can you take to better protect your online privacy? Check out the following tips to help safeguard your data:

  • Think before you post. Before tagging your friends on Instagram, sharing your location on Facebook, or enabling facial recognition, consider what this information reveals and how it could be used by a third-party.
  • Set privacy and security settings. If you don’t want the entire World Wide Web to be able to access your social media, turn your profiles to private. You can also go to your device settings and choose which apps or browsers you want to share your location with and which ones you don’t.
  • Enable two-factor authentication. In the chance your data does become exposed, a strong, unique password can help prevent your accounts from being hacked. Furthermore, you can implement two-factor authentication to stay secure. This will help strengthen your online accounts with a unique, one-time code required to log in and access your data.

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 Sharing Isn’t Always Caring: 3 Tips to Help Protect Your Online Privacy appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

The Results Are In: Fake Apps and Banking Trojans Are A Cybercriminal Favorite

Today, we are all pretty reliant on our mobile technology. From texting, to voice messaging, to mobile banking, we have a world of possibilities at our fingertips. But what happens when the bad guys take advantage of our reliance on mobile and IoT technology to threaten our cybersecurity? According to the latest McAfee Labs Threats Report, cybercriminals are leveraging fake apps and banking trojans to access users’ personal and financial information. In fact, our researchers saw an average of 480 new threats per minute and a sharp increase in malware targeting IoT devices during the last quarter. Let’s take a look at how these cyberthreats gained traction over the past few months.

While new mobile malware declined by 24% in Q3, our researchers did notice some unusual threats fueled by fake apps. Back in June, we observed a scam where crooks released YouTube videos with fake links disguised as leaked versions of Fortnite’s Android app. If a user clicked on the link to download this phony app, they would be asked to provide mobile verification. This verification process would prompt them to download app after app, putting money right in the cybercriminals’ pockets for increased app downloads.

Another fake app scheme that caught the attention of our researchers was Android/TimpDoor. This SMS phishing campaign tricked users into clicking on a link sent to them via text. The link would direct them to a fabricated web page urging them to download a fake voice messaging app. Once the victim downloaded the fake app, the malware would begin to collect the user’s device information. Android/TimpDoor would then be able to let cybercriminals use the victim’s device to access their home network.

Our researchers also observed some peculiar behavior among banking trojans, a type of malware that disguises itself as a genuine app or software to obtain a user’s banking credentials. In Q3, cybercriminals employed uncommon file types to carry out spam email campaigns, accounting for nearly 500,000 emails sent worldwide. These malicious phishing campaigns used phrases such as “please confirm” or “payment” in the subject line to manipulate users into thinking the emails were of high importance. If a user clicked on the message, the banking malware would be able to bypass the email protection system and infect the device. Banking trojans were also found using two-factor operations in web injects, or packages that can remove web page elements and prevent a user from seeing a security alert. Because these web injects removed the need for two-factor authentication, cybercriminals could easily access a victim’s banking credentials from right under their noses.

But don’t worry – there’s good news. By reflecting on the evolving landscape of cybersecurity, we can better prepare ourselves for potential threats. Therefore, to prepare your devices for schemes such as these, follow these tips:

  • Go directly to the source. Websites like YouTube are often prone to links for fake websites and apps so criminals can make money off of downloads. Avoid falling victim to these frauds and only download software straight from a company’s home page.
  • Click with caution. Only click on links in text messages that are from trusted sources. If you receive a text message from an unknown sender, stay cautious and avoid interacting with the message.
  • Use comprehensive security. Whether you’re using a mobile banking app on your phone or browsing the internet on your desktop, it’s important to safeguard all of your devices with an extra layer of security. Use a robust security software like McAfee Total Protection so you can connect with confidence.

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

The post The Results Are In: Fake Apps and Banking Trojans Are A Cybercriminal Favorite appeared first on McAfee Blogs.