Avoiding Aggressive Apps That May Contain Malware
Most smart phone users have lots of apps, but if you’ve ever downloaded a free mobile app for an android device, you may have opened yourself up to invasive ads and malware.
“It’s growing and this is something that we’re seeing where security companies are realizing that especially in the mobile age where it’s more of a wild west/anything goes scenario,” said Seth Rosenblatt, Senior Editor of CNET.
Some seemingly harmless apps can bombard smartphones with spam ads and icons. It gets worse, too.
“There’s some bad apples who don’t necessarily respect user privacy, that without your knowledge can take your email address or your phone number and then send it to who knows what, some server somewhere,” said Kevin Mahaffey.
Mahaffey is the co-founder of Lookout, a mobile security firm trying to educate advertisers about good practices.
“Anytime an advertising network is putting advertisements where you don’t expect them, we think that’s a problem,” said Mahaffey.
Mahaffey’s firm estimates about five percent of free Android apps have invasive advertising. That may not sound like a lot, but it amounts to hundreds of millions of downloads.
So how can you protect yourself? First, read the terms and conditions of any app you download.
“This is not a 20-page terms of service that you have to read through. It is a very short message,” said Mary Lande, Senior Researcher at Cloudmark, a San Francisco-based company that works to stop spam, viruses, and phishing.
Make sure you download from a known source. Lookout also has a free software download to help you see how your apps really work, and uninstall them if needed.
Lookout has contacted several ad networks labeled “aggressive” but has not had many return calls. The group plans to release the names of the “worst ad” offenders to the public if they don’t improve mobile ad guidelines.
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