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Google Play Store: How to Detect Dangerous Apps


Apps keep appearing in the Google Play Store that want to spy on their users. In the article you will find out whether your smartphone is also affected and how you can best protect it.

At regular intervals, fraudulent developers succeed in smuggling malware past the checks into the Google Play Store. Lately these have been mainly beauty apps like

Pro camera beauty

“,”

Cartoon photo art

“Or”

Emoji camera

“. The most successful of these apps had over a million downloads. It wasn’t until January 2020 that Trendmicro security experts managed to

                        
                                                                                                                                        to expose numerous apps
                                            .

If you have already installed one of these applications, it is not so easy to get rid of them. The actual app only creates a link with an icon on the start screen and does not appear in the list of installed applications. Once on your mobile device, these applications load advertisements onto your smartphone or tablet, primarily from porn providers and phishing websites. These pop-ups don’t just appear when the camera app is open. The security experts found that this also happens when the smartphone is unlocked or when the browser is opened. Due to this procedure, the pop-ups are initially not associated with the previously installed app. Other beauty apps are known to misuse your pictures. For editing, you have to upload your photos to a server – however, nothing happens afterwards and you will not receive an edited and embellished picture. Trendmicro security experts suspect that these photos will then be used for fake profiles in social networks.

To prevent this from happening to you and keep you in control of your data, we have put together a few measures for you to check and proactively protect your smartphone.

See also:

How to remove a virus from Android devices

Step 1: Quickly check your own mobile devices

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“Play Protect” checks your installed apps for dangers. If Google has identified an app as a security risk, you will be informed.

Once malware apps are identified, Google usually responds very quickly and removes them from the Google Play Store. In combination with the security service installed on Android devices by default ”

Play Protect

“In this case, you have good basic insurance first. The easiest way to find the function is in the settings of the Play Store app (three horizontal lines) under the menu item “My apps and games” on the “Updates” tab. If you click on the line with the green sign, you will see the current security status of your smartphone and can start a check manually if necessary.

Step 2: installing security software

The free AVG Antivirus 2020 virus scanner examines your installed apps, but also all local files on your smartphone.

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The free AVG Antivirus 2020 virus scanner examines your installed apps, but also all local files on your smartphone.

If Google’s Play Protect has not found anything, this is only a first indicator. We strongly recommend that you install an antivirus for Android for additional protection. Most commercial solutions offer checking the installed apps and new apps before installation as a free service. Despite everything, there are functional differences.

The first app we would like to recommend to secure your smartphone is ”

                        
                                                                                                                                        AVG Antivirus 2020
                                            “. It is a free virus scanner with some helpful functions. Of particular note is the scanner, which you can use to examine not only installed apps, but also local files.

Before you start the first scan, you should activate the “Check internal memory” function in the “Protection” settings. This also checks all files in the internal memory that the app has access to. Although this increases the execution time of the scan, it also delivers more reliable results in the end. Then start the analysis using the “Scan” button. Depending on the number of apps installed and the files on your smartphone or tablet, this may take a few minutes. If suspicious applications or files are discovered, AVG Antivirus notifies you and suggests remedial measures.

The

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The “App Insights” also receive information about which advertising networks an application uses and for what purposes the data collected is used for other purposes.

The “App Insights” function, which you call up using the three lines in the top left corner, is no less helpful. The “Permissions” tab tells you which apps have high, average and low permissions.

The detailed view of each app is also interesting. This not only tells you what permissions the app has and what it can do with it. In the “Networks” section, you can also see where the advertising that appears in the app comes from and what information is collected about you.

Based on this information, you should decide whether you want to continue using the app or whether you should install it.

Reading tip:

The 10 worst virus traps at a glance

Alternative virus scanner: Sophos Intercept X for Mobile

As an initial picture, the Sophos virus scanner shows you the overall status and an evaluation of the individual categories. As soon as something is marked in red, you should take a closer look at the problems.

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As an initial picture, the Sophos virus scanner shows you the overall status and an evaluation of the individual categories. As soon as something is marked in red, you should take a closer look at the problems.

As an alternative or supplement, we would like to

                        
                                                                                                                                        Sophos Intercept X
                                            “Introduce a second free virus scanner. This has clear advantages over the AVG virus scanner, particularly with regard to the display of authorizations per app. After installation, you will see an overview page with the overall status of your system: If it is red, there is a problem.

You can take a closer look at this in the next step and, in the best case, start directly with the problem being solved. For example, the scanner on our device criticized activated USB debugging. Next, you should look at the installed apps and their trustworthiness. The “App Security” item is available for this. You can see in the overview when the last scan was carried out. If the Sophos virus scanner has found suspicious apps or files, they are displayed in an overview.

The “Show scan details” button hides the option of starting a manual scan and displaying the overview of the last scan. The virus scanner on our smartphone came to the same result as AVG’s competitor: All installed apps are trustworthy. Activate the “App reputation” option via the settings. This shows you applications with bad reputation in a separate overview. Check out these apps and see if the warnings from Sophos are valid. The detailed view gives you clues as to how the security provider comes to his assessment. Decide whether you use the app anyway – then it will no longer appear in the overview – or uninstall it directly.

If the Sophos scanner has identified an app with a bad reputation, you will find the exact reason for this in the detailed analysis. If you disagree with the verdict, simply select “Allow”.

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If the Sophos scanner has identified an app with a bad reputation, you will find the exact reason for this in the detailed analysis. If you disagree with the verdict, simply select “Allow”.

The Sophos virus scanner also offers a function that analyzes your installed apps more precisely than the Android onboard solution or the AVG virus scanner. You can find this in the menu under “Privacy Advisor”. It shows you which permissions have been requested for each app and which you may not have granted. These are marked with a crossed out red circle.

In the detailed view of an app you will find the classification of the requested authorizations. From this point you can jump directly to the app info using the “Change permissions” button to adjust the permissions granted if necessary.

In the

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In the “Privacy Advisor” of the Sophos app you can see which and how many permissions an app has requested and approved.

The three different sorting options are also helpful in this overview: In addition to a list according to the name of the app, the number of requested authorizations helps to identify possible malware or to remove unnecessarily granted rights. The third sorting option is an arrangement based on the number of permitted authorizations.

Step 3: Check the permissions of the installed apps

Android also offers an authorization overview in the settings. With one click you can see which apps use which authorization.

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Android also offers an authorization overview in the settings. With one click you can see which apps use which authorization.

A useful addition to the virus scanner is a function with which you can optimally manage the individual apps and their authorizations. This is already standard in Android – but well hidden. You can find them in the settings under “Apps & Permissions / App Permissions”.

If you don’t like this view or you want to switch flexibly between the app overview and the permissions, you should use the app ”

                        
                                                                                                                                        Permission manager
                                            “Take a closer look. There you can branch directly from the list of installed apps to the authorizations. In the “Permissions” view you will find a separate tab for each authorization. On this you can see all apps that use the appropriate authorization or at least have requested this.

The

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The “Permission Manager” app offers an interesting alternative for everyone who uses an older Android version without an authorization overview.

From the corresponding views, you have the option of assigning authorizations using the slider and, if necessary, withdrawing them again.

Step 4: manual check before installation

In the previous three steps, we showed you how to check and secure your smartphone with various apps and standard functions. In addition, there are usually tips directly in the Google Play Store that help identify dubious apps. Above all, these are the ratings of an app.

Especially with poorly made fake apps, the ratings are clearly divided into two camps: one consists of completely dissatisfied customers who only give one star and who often go into great detail about the non-existent functionality of the app.

In addition, there are usually just as many or even more users who give the app five points and are completely enthusiastic. Ratings in between, i.e. with two to four points, you will rarely find or not at all. With such a constellation, it is very likely that the five-star ratings are fake to motivate you to download. In such a case, read the reviews very carefully – you will usually find clear references to a fake app.

Conclusion: A good combination of alertness and technique

In order to be protected against malicious apps, you should combine two measures at the end: a well-functioning virus scanner and the necessary vigilance before you download an app from the Google Play Store. With such a combination, very little can usually happen. If, despite everything, you come across an infected app, it is usually quickly identified either by Google or the manufacturer of your virus scanner and removed from your smartphone. That is why a regular update of your security software is just as important as a regular check of the installed apps.

Advantages and disadvantages of security apps

With the security apps from AVG and Sophos, you have all the functions you need for a one-time, in-depth analysis of your smartphone. In the end, however, you should choose an app that you would like to use in day-to-day operation, because monitoring your smartphone in real time is at the expense of your battery.

Perhaps you are also asking yourself why the two manufacturers offer the apps for free. There are several explanations for this: Within the AVG app you will find many advertising banners and also some functions that you can only activate via in-app purchases. It’s a little different with Sophos. The manufacturer offers the complete app for free and earns its money primarily with commercial products for corporate use.

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