Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Many Apps Use Microphone to Track Television Habits

Olivia Ford | 06 January, 2018, 03:19

According to Trend Micro, these apps offered users a wide range of security capabilities including cleaning junk, saving battery, scanning, CPU cooling, locking apps, Wi-Fi security, message security and more.

The apps in question were given names like Security Defender, Security Keeper and Smart Security, presumably in a bid to win the confidence of netizens browsing the Google app store. Consequently, Google Safe Browsing tool will warn mobile users on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user's personal data without their consent. Did you know this is also happening on your mobile device?

For other devices, these hidden apps would simply push alarming fake security notifications, warnings and pop-up windows to the user.

Thanks to security researchers at Trend Micro who reported the set of malicious apps to Google, all these apps no longer exist on the Play Store but it is possible that there could be similar apps lurking around on official app stores because of the way their creators are masking their activities. "Or the user will be sent notifications like '10.0 GB files are being wasted, ' which will prompt some kind of action", the researchers wrote. Once such data were harvested, they were passed on to remote servers by these apps.

Besides the fake security alerts, users were also hit with a trove of advertisements on almost every action they performed.

"The consumer is opting in knowingly and can opt out anytime", Chordia told NYT, adding that users have to grant permission before the company gain access to users' microphones and locations. The options included one for displaying ads, typically when a WiFi connection is made, a call ends, the screen is being locked or a charger is plugged in.

Alarmingly, the information is collected even if the apps aren't actively running at the time - and it's sold on to advertisers.

Pool 3D, one of the apps to run the software, attempts to expound its goal, reach and conduct. Over the past 12 months alone, numerous security vendors, including Check Point, have discovered hundreds of malicious Android applications on Google Play, many of which were downloaded by millions of users worldwide before being detected and removed.

LightsOut shows that hackers "are becoming more sophisticated in the way they are managing to bypass Google Plays' detections and continue to serve fraudulent ads", he said.

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