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New report finds over 100 bogus Android antivirus apps

According to a new study by AV-Comparatives, an independent, non-profit antivirus-testing firm, a huge number of “security apps” on the Google Play store do not perform as advertised. The study was conducted on 250 of the top downloaded security apps and found that most of them were either unreliable or straight up faulty. Furthermore, they found that software firms were cranking out redundant apps with no specific focus on security whatsoever.

Study highlights:

  1. The automated test considered 2000 Android malware threats that were common in 2018. Additionally, 100 safe files were also included.

  2. Over 500,000 test runs were performed for the study. The test also featured a basic false-alarm task to check if security apps label every app as malicious.

  3. Out of 250 apps which were tested, only 80 detected more than 30 percent of malware that was handed to them.

  4. Among them, most of the apps had detection rates faring between 90 to 100 percent.

  5. On the other hand, 138 apps detected less than 30 percent of malware samples and displayed false alarms for safe files.

  6. The remaining 32 apps have been removed from Play Store as these apps were identified as ‘Potentially Unwanted Applications’.

Not just ineffective but risky – The test report also mentioned that these ineffective apps were likely dangerous.

“A number of the above apps have in the meantime already been detected either as Trojans, dubious/fake AVs, or at least as “potentially unwanted applications” (PUA) by several reputable mobile security apps. It is to be expected that Google will remove most of them from the Google Play Store in the coming months (and hopefully enhance their verification checks, thus blocking other such apps from the store),” the AV-Comparatives’ blog indicated.

Why user ratings may not mean much – The firm has also suggested mobile users to avoid blindly trusting the user ratings or availability of latest updates for the AV app to determine the effectiveness of the app.

Instead, it has advised users to try out AV apps before buying them, along with checking relevant factors such as privacy policy, app permissions, and developer information.

The take away:

With the number of apps available on the Play store growing daily, it can be hard to discern which ones to trust. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Don’t trust user reviews They’re often fake, bought or from unreliable sources. These software makers want to bait you into downloading their App, then make money by showing ads or by straight up stealing your personal information and selling it on the black market.

  2. Check permissions Suspicious Apps seem to ask for excessive access on your phone to items such as contacts, calendar, device storage, camera, microphone and call history. Typically an App asking for this much access to your personal data is a big red flag.

  3. Go with a name you know When in doubt, check it out. Reputable brands such as Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton and Sophos are well known names in security. Stick with a trustworthy name and you’ll minimize the risk of an issue.

Stay safe out there.


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