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Android Insecurity

Last year Google removed over 1 million malicious apps from their play store. This indicates a significant problem. If they are missing or just haven't found 1% of the malicious apps, then we can assume there are over a thousand in the store today. How can you protect yourself?

Google is constantly scanning their store for malicious apps, and removed over 1 million last year. However, their scanner app isn't that good. Furthermore, even though Google provides security updates for the Android system monthly, to plug known vulnerabilities, most new phones only get updated quarterly (if that) and older ones not at all.

Trend Micro recently issued a report where it looked for a single type of malicious software called "Face Stealers". These are usually exercise apps, or photo editing apps that steal your Facebook credentials. They could be any app, not just those two types. Trend Micro found 200 such apps in the Play Store. They also found other malicious apps doing other nefarious things. Google cannot keep up with the torrent of malicious apps being submitted. So, what do you do?

What do you do?

  1. Don't download apps. If you wonder, "Do I need this?", don't get it. If you think, "Should I get this?"; don't get it. Simply try and limit your apps.
  2. Prefer paid apps to free ones. If there is a paid option and it isn't too much, get it. Pay the extra money and don't have strangers running advertisements on your mobile device.
  3. Use a DNS service that is secure and helps protect against malware. I wrote an article explaining how to do so. This article also explains what DNS is and why it is important. This is a free option.
  4. Antivirus? This is a tough one. Google is already scanning your apps, but its scanner isn't as good as the best antivirus programs. I can recommend the FREE Bitdefender for a few reasons. Bitdefender tests very well at both finding nearly all virus samples and not claiming good programs are infected (false positive). It is unobtrusive. I tried the paid version, and found it more intrusive than the free version. The reviews for it are excellent. I'm using it on my phone and tablet. I know I said to prefer paid apps over free ones, and the paid BitDefender is only $14.95/yr. But I felt it was more intrusive than the free app and my preferred Android Browser, Vivaldi, isn't one of those it protects. That made the benefits limited.
  5. NextDNS is a product I use to protect my entire network, including computer and tablet and phone. It requires some effort and understanding. I've mentioned it before, but will do an entire article on it next month. Essentially, it is a very low cost (or free) cloud based DNS firewall.

Be careful out there. The Internet is a dangerous place.

Date: July 2022

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