We’ve all come to a realization that we don’t go anywhere without our phone. It’s a utility that helps us navigate our daily lives: directions, schedules, shopping, discounts, banking, and so on. And as our reliance on our smartphone continues to grow, it’s no wonder that hackers have taken notice. This time, it’s another case of an app gone rogue.
Innocent Scanner Turned Malware Super-Spreader
With over 10 million downloads, the Barcode Scanner app provided users with a basic QR code reader and barcode generator, useful for things like making purchases and redeeming discounts. Then, most likely in a recent update, the app began to deliver ad-producing malware onto users’ phones – with the malware being traced back to the Android Barcode Scanner app. While Barcode Scanner was previously benign, it is believed that a hacker injected malicious code into the app before the latest update, pushing malware onto Android devices. Once installed, the malware hijacks your default web browsers and redirects you to random advertisements.
In a typical case of malvertising, or malicious advertising, fraudsters submit infected graphic or text ads to legitimate advertisement networks, which often can’t distinguish harmful ads from trustworthy ones. Under the guise of everyday pop-ups, these malicious ads push fake browser updates, free utilities, or antivirus programs in the hope that unsuspecting users will click. Depending on what kind of programs the malicious ads succeed in downloading, hackers might steal your data, encrypt or delete your information, or hijack your computer functions – as is the case with the Barcode Scanner’s malware.
While Google has taken down the Barcode Scanner from its store, it has not been deleted from infected devices. So, if you have the app on your phone, it’s time to uninstall it from your device manually…ASAP.
How to Stay Protected
We all need to reflect on the state of our digital health, especially as hackers continue to target us through the device we use most – our phones. To help protect your data, family, and friends, check out these security tactics to keep sneaky mobile threats out:
1. Do your research
While some malicious apps do make it through the app store screening process, most attack downloads appear to stem from social media, fake ads, and other unofficial app sources. Before downloading an app to your device, do some quick research about the origin and developer.
2. Read app reviews with a critical eye
Reviews and rankings are still a suitable method of determining whether an app is legitimate. However, watch out for assessments that reuse repetitive or straightforward phrases, as this could be a sign of a fraudulent review.
3. Update, update, update
Developers are actively working to identify and address security issues. Frequently update your operating systems and apps so that they have the latest fixes and security protections.
4. Use a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, allows you to send and receive data across a public network, but it encrypts your information so others can’t read it. This can prevent hackers from spying on your internet activity, therefore protecting your privacy.
5. Defend your devices with security software
Holistic security solutions across all devices continues to be a strong defensive measure to protect your data and privacy from online threats like malware.
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