Google Play Malware Troubles: This Week in Digital


Most of us wouldn’t think twice about downloading an app from a trusted store like iTunes or Google Play. Unfortunately though, Android users may have to be a little more vigilant in future. One of the biggest malware attacks in recent times has managed to infiltrate its way into devices through this once assumed, secure source. Are you a victim of the Google Play malware attacks?

Recent research conducted by Check Point, claims to have found the second-biggest outbreak to ever hit Google’s platform. More than 21 million infections are active from one malware family .

Originally reported by Forbes, this attack has been known as ExpensiveWall. The success behind this breach largely stems from the virus hiding within wallpaper apps. Premium SMS messages and fake services are used to hit the victims once access is gained.

Check Point were first to detect the latest outbreak. Named ExpensiveWall, it’s infected at least 50 apps, whilst being downloaded between 1 million and 4.2 million times. A previous sample of the malware was uncovered by McAfee. Installed millions of times too, the total number of victims to somewhere between 5.9 million and 21.1 million, the researchers claimed Thursday.

Google Play Malware Troubles: How To Fight It

Amazingly this isn’t even the biggest attack on the platform this year. It’s second to Judy – another attack in May that was even more successful. Downloaded 36 million times through the same platform, it ran a similar strategy. Check Point mobile researcher Daniel Padon offered these findings to Forbes, but was unable to estimate how much the criminals made in their latest efforts.

A Google spokesperson said: “We’ve removed these apps from Play and always appreciate the research community’s efforts to help keep the Android ecosystem safe.”

And although a good start, one must ask is it enough? After all, this year has seen the two biggest attacks ever. Surely Google will have to revise its standards for apps henceforth.

These large scale attacks can produce huge sums of money for cyber criminals very quickly. For victims, they’re also close to impossible to get away from once caught. Users will also soon risk being hit for larger amounts, unless it’s combated. As with most digital crime trends, we’ll only see this become more problematic for users until its addressed properly.

And it’s not just money that the attackers want. ExpensiveWall is pilfering data about the infected device, including location and IP address. It could also force users to click on online advertisements, another money-making scheme. Hackers at the end of these pay-per-click ad chains will be eager to push on in this sense to grow more revenue.

Google Play vs. iTunes’ App Store

Apple lovers have always boasted about the security within their eco system. Mac works for Mac, and iPhone works for iPhone. Although sometimes frustrating, it’s undeniable that they’ve seen much less attacks due to their largely closed off technology.

Whereas with Android a more open source alternative, perhaps this is just an occupational hazard. Developed for multiple devices, it’s only logical that they’ll be more vulnerable to attack. Something does need to change though to protect these users.

Affected By These Attacks?

The most unfortunate victims of these hackers will be parents. Kids often have a habit of downloading useless apps without checking developers or reliability. If you’re even a little more aware of what goes on your phone, you should be fine.

This is more a cautionary tale than anything. Just be vigilant and use some common sense when downloading. Apps are great, but with Google Play in particular there’s some dodgy technology you need to avoid. Stay informed with our weekly blogs and you’ll never get caught out!

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