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Keep Malware Off Your Android Phone: 5 Quick Tips

Angry Droid
Image: Courtesy of I-Enthusiast.com
The number of free Android apps that may be infected with malware this week has increased to more than 50.

Although some of these apps might look suspicious, others bearing names such as "Quick Notes" or "Chess" seem innocent enough, and you might not think twice about downloading them.

Tips for a Malware-Free Smartphone

Following are five quick tips to help you keep your Android handset free of malware.

  1. Always research the publisher of the app. What other apps does it offer? Do any of them look a bit shady? If so, you should probably stay away.
  2. Read online reviews. Android Market reviews may not always be truthful. Check around to see what reputable Websites are saying about the app before you hit the download button.
  3. Always check app permissions. Whenever you download or update an app, you get a list of permissions for it. An alarm clock app, for instance, probably shouldn't need to look through your contacts. The general rule of thumb: If an app is asking for more than what it needs to do its job, you should skip it.
  4. Android Market
    Avoid directly installing Android Package files (APKs). When Angry Birds first came to Android, you could get it only through a third party. This is called "sideloading," or installing apps using an .APK file. Although Angry Birds wasn't malware, in general it is highly advisable not to download and install .APK files that you randomly come across. Most of the time you won't know what the file contains until you install it--and by then it's too late.
  5. Put a malware and antivirus scanner on your phone. Although many people still think that antivirus scanners on phones are useless, maybe outbreaks such as this one will change minds. Several different big-name security companies already offer mobile-security options, many of them free. I myself had downloaded "Spider Man," which is on a bad-apps list. My Lookout software identified it as a Trojan horse.

Infected-Apps List Published by Android User 'Myournet'

  • Advanced Currency Converter
  • App Uninstaller
  • Chess
  • Dice Roller
  • Falling Ball Dodge
  • Falling Down
  • Funny Paint
  • Hilton Sex Sound
  • Hot Sexy Videos
  • Photo Editor
  • Scientific Calculator
  • Screaming Sexy Japanese Girls
  • Spider Man
  • Super Guitar Solo
  • Super History Eraser
  • Super Ringtone Maker
  • Super Sex Positions

Infected-Apps List Published by Android User 'Kingmall2010'

  • Advanced App to SD
  • Advanced Barcode Scanner
  • Advanced Compass Leveler
  • Advanced File Manager
  • Best password safe
  • Bowling Time
  • Magic Strobe Light
  • Music Box
  • Sexy Girls: Japanese
  • Sexy Legs
  • Super Stopwatch & Timer
  • Supre Bluetooth Transfer
  • Task Killer Pro

Infected-Apps List Compiled Under the Developer Name 'we20090202'

  • Advanced Sound Manager
  • Basketball Shot Now
  • Bubble Shoot
  • Color Blindness Test
  • Finger Race
  • Funny Face
  • Magic Hypnotic Spiral
  • Omok Five in a Row
  • Piano
  • Quick Delete Contacts
  • Quick Notes
  • Super Sexy Ringtones
  • Tie a Tie

Also on the lists are the foreign-language apps shown at left.

Lookout Mobile Security, which provides security software for mobile phones, posted on its blog a list of 56 Android applications that have been infected with DroidDream, a new type of Android malware that roots your phone and gains access to as much personal information as it can. The apps also can open a backdoor, allowing more executable code to download to your phone without your being aware of it.

A few of these apps have already been downloaded by at least 50,000 users, making this one of the most widespread cases of Android malware to date. Although the apps in question have been pulled from the Android Market, Google is investigating them and has not yet moved to wipe them remotely from users' phones.

Lookout has issued an update to its mobile security software. If you have downloaded any of these apps, the company advises that you run its malware scanner and e-mail the Lookout support center. Mashable (which earlier today posted a list of infected apps complied by Myournet) suggests returning your phone to your carrier, as your data and security may be compromised.

With more and more malware emerging for the Android platform every day, users would do well to be careful and pay strict attention to what happens on their phones. You have to remember that smartphones are essentially computers--and all computers are vulnerable to attack by malicious software.

Armando Rodriguez is a PCWorld intern focusing on news and reviews of Android phones, apps, and tablets. Catch him on Twitter @megapenguinx.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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