Sophos has alerted users to the risk of downloading fake antivirus apps. The firm has also released a new white paper on a specific antivirus app called Super Antivirus 2018. According to the report, the app has been downloaded 50,000 times, presumably by users who are concerned about security. While the app does appear to be scanning the mobile device on which it is installed, all the app really offers is the illusion of security. The app offers no malware protection.
The purpose of the app appears to simply be to serve ads to the user. The app also frequently advertises a secondary fake antivirus app, which again, serves no purpose other than to serve ads.
These apps are commonly referred to as PuPs or PuAs (Potentially Unwanted Programs/Applications). The programs are not usually malicious, but they serve little purpose, at least for the user. They may appear to provide an important function, and in some cases, they do. But they usually also include a range of additional programs and functions that are undesirable. Like Super Antivirus 2018, those functions are often to serve unwanted ads to the user.
Users should exercise caution when downloading apps, even from the Google Play or Apple store. Just because the apps have passed Google or Apple’s tests, does not mean they are entirely legitimate or desirable applications. In some cases, these applications are malicious.
That was highlighted recently with a slew of apps that were found to contain malware that displayed pornographic adverts to users. In that case, the malware – named AdultSwine – was added to more than 60 apps that were available on the Google Play store. Many of those apps were games that were marketed to children.
When it comes to protecting devices from ransomware, malware, and other web and email-borne nasties, it pays not to take any chances. There are many fake antivirus apps available for download, but there are also many legitimate free antivirus tools for mobile devices. Sophos offers free Mobile Security for Android devices, as do several other big-name brands. The golden rule. Only download antivirus software from a brand that can be trusted.