comscore
News

AdultSwine Malware: How to keep your kids safe from porn filled gaming apps on Google Play Store

A new malware called AdultSwine found displaying porn ads in over 60 games. While Google has removed 60 such apps from the Play Store, here’s how to keep your kids safe from porn filled apps.

porn-tablet-stock-image

Google’s porn problem isn’t new. We’ve seen a lot of obscene apps on the Play Store that are easily available to download. From apps that let you watch porn videos, to the ones featuring details about enlarging your genitals, there are plenty of such apps out there. What’s really disturbing is the recently discovered AdultSwine malware that displays pornographic ads within games, and most of these titles are aimed towards children.

Soon after Check Point research published their discovery, Google was quick enough to react and pull down 60 such apps from the Play Store. “We’ve removed the apps from Play, disabled the developers’ accounts, and will continue to show strong warnings to anyone that has installed them,” a Google spokesperson told CNN.

Besides displaying porn ads within the app, the malware also tricked users into installing ‘fake security apps’ and encourage users to register and pay for premium services. The malicious code could also be used by hackers for credential theft.

The research firm released a list of such apps, and according to Play Store data, these apps have been downloaded somewhere between three and seven million. Once the app is installed, it waits for the user to boot the device, after with the malicious activity is initiated.

It’s no secret, today’s kids are smart and grasp things in no time. Even a seven-year-old kid will know how to unlock the smartphone, watch videos, click photos, and most importantly, play games. This also increases the risk of your kids being exposed to pornographic ads. Below are few tips to help you spot fake and malicious apps, and keep your kids away from them.

Check the publisher before downloading

The best part of Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store is that fact that anyone can register themselves as developers, build apps and publish them. But that also increases the risk of fake apps on these app stores. Before you download the app, always look for the publisher name and details.

You will find the publisher name right below the app title, and by clicking on ‘read more’ in the description section. When you scroll down even further, you will find other developer details such as email address, office address, version number and last updated on. While these details won’t let you figure out if it is a fake app or not, it can surely alert you if things look fishy.

Check the ratings and user reviews

This is the best tool to gauge the app. Just below the app title and publisher name, you will find the app rating. This is generally based on the average rating given by the users that have downloaded the app. User by reading user reviews, you will get a clearer idea on what to expect from the app, and if it has any issues. Even you should make a point of giving ratings and writing at least a couple of lines of reviews about the app, which in turn would help other users.

Check for variants in spelling

One way to spot fake apps from original ones is to look at spelling errors. For instance, Subway Surfers is a popular game on the Play Store. But there are many similar games that replicate the gameplay. There are games such as Subway Surf, Subway Surf 2, Super Subway Surf, to name a few. And then there are games Subway Surfers Cheat Codes and Tips for Subway Surfers, among others, and most of these don’t have the cheat codes that you would expect, instead, they will ask unnecessary permission to services not related. Better to avoid such apps.

Do use the apps from time to time

In most cases, we download the games and apps for our kids, but we never play them. So, even if the app has some malicious content that it displays, we’d hardly come to know about it. Trying out the app every once in a while, or least sitting beside kids to watch when they play will help you have a better idea.

Activate Google Play Protect

At the I/O 2017, Google announced Play Protect, aimed at protecting users from fake apps that can not only harm your device, but also compromise data. Before the app is published on the Play Store, it has to undergo rigorous security testing, and developers that violate the policies are banned by Google. The Play Protect adds extra layer of security to your Android device.

To activate it, open Play Store, tap on the hamburger menu on the top left and then tap on Play Protect. There are two options at the bottom – ‘scan device for security threats’ and ‘improve harmful app detection’ that you need to turn on to keep your device safe. It will show you the recently scanned apps, and will also display if any threats were found in any of the installed apps.

Check app permissions

When you first run the app, it asks you for a number of permissions, and in a hurry to quickly start using it, most of us tend to ‘allow all’ the permissions. But here’s the problem. A gaming app will need storage access to save the game data, but it doesn’t need an access to camera, messages or dialer app.

This is something that most users ignore, and it could pose a bigger threat that could steal your data. Ensure that you give the app only those permissions that are required.

Avoid side loading apps

Lastly, one should strictly avoid side loading apps. There are times when users head over to third-party sites to download the cracked version of APK files of the paid games that they are interested in. These cracked versions usually have a malicious code running in there. It is better to avoid installing games and apps from external sources, and only rely on downloading them from the Play Store.

You can also turn off side loading option by heading over to Settings, followed by ‘lock screen and security’ and untick the ‘unknown sources” button.

  • Published Date: January 15, 2018 1:20 PM IST