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13 apps you should delete from your smartphone immediately

Time and again, malware hides in Android apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Anti-virus specialists have now come across 13 malicious apps that are in use millions of times over.

IT security company McAfee has found 13 apps in the Google Play Store that were contaminated with malware as part of an investigation. Some of the apps were downloaded millions of times and are therefore on the smartphones of numerous Android users. Google itself has since removed them from the Play Store, but users of the apps must actively delete them from their phones.

Optimization apps for smartphones are affected

The affected apps load malware onto the phone unnoticed by the user when they are installed. In order to gain access rights to the smartphone without arousing suspicion, the malware ironically disguises itself as a storage space or energy manager. So you are literally loading the wolf in sheep’s clothing onto your device.

Once the app malware is installed on the smartphone, it continuously displays advertisements. Moreover, the malware automatically executes malicious services during the installation without the app itself having to be in use. What is particularly mean is that the apps disguise themselves so that users do not recognize them as infected programs and possibly delete them. To do this, they simulate familiar icons by hiding as “Settings” or “Google Play” in the app overview, for example.

Smartphone screen where malware disguises itself by changing its name and icon
The malware hides on the smartphone by changing the app icon and name on its own. Photo: McAfee

Which apps are affected by the maleware?

McAfee found a total of 13 malware-infected apps. All of them were downloaded thousands of times by users on their Android smartphones. If you have any of the apps mentioned below installed on your phone, delete them immediately.

  • Junk Cleaner – 1 million+ downloads
  • EasyCleaner – 100,000+ downloads
  • Power Doctor – 500,000+ downloads
  • Super Clean – 500,000+ downloads
  • Full Clean – Clean Cache – 1 million+ downloads
  • Fingertip Cleaner – 500,000+ downloads
  • Quick Cleaner – 1 million+ downloads
  • Keep Clean – 1 million+ downloads
  • Windy Clean – 500,000+ Downloads
  • Carpet Clean – 100,000+ downloads
  • Cool Clean – 500,000+ Downloads
  • Strong Clean – 500,000+ Downloads
  • Meteor Clean – 100,000+ downloads

Google removes infected apps regularly

For years, Google has been deleting apps infected with malware or other malicious software from the Play Store. However, as soon as the company takes action and removes the infected apps, new malicious apps start popping up. The developers of such malware often use social networks to promote their apps. From there, links often lead directly to the Play Store. Users should therefore be particularly careful about which apps they install on their smartphone.

Joker malware was a problem for a long time

Despite regular checks, some malware appears again and again. The Joker malware, for example, caused some trouble for Android users in 2020. What makes Joker so hard to detect is the sophisticated tactics the malware uses to get onto smartphones. When apps are installed from the Play Store, a small portion of the malware hides in the ads or the app itself. Only when users run the app and certain criteria are met for user data, network provider and end device, does the smaller component download the actual malware from the Internet.

As ” Forbes ” reported at the time, even then Joker remains hidden and can read contact lists, SMS messages and other user data in the background. Through its access to SMS messages, Joker can also register smartphone owners for paid Internet services that require confirmation via SMS. However, the user only notices about all this when it is too late.

Security researchers from the IT lab Zscaler have found out why Joker is so successful. The malware keeps changing parts of the code and the installation method to avoid detection. The lab evaluated 17 apps that were placed in the Play Store in September 2020 and have since been downloaded a total of 120,000 times.

Google has since removed the apps from the Play Store. On smartphones where they are already installed, they have to be removed manually. So if you have any of the apps listed here on your smartphone, atechbook advises uninstalling them as soon as possible.

How you can protect yourself

Since Google still has problems with malware that can hide so well, a lot of the responsibility lies with the users. You can protect yourself by paying close attention to what accesses an app requests each time you install it. If a PDF scanner or a translator wants access to SMS, contacts, call logs and more, you should be suspicious. If you are unsure, the app reviews in the Play Store can often help. If there are many negative voices and warnings here, you should keep your hands off the app.

Topics

  • Android
  • Security