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42 Malicious Apps Affected 8 Million Android Users: Report

"The malicious developer also has apps in Applea¿s App Store. Some of them are iOS versions of the ones removed from Google Play, but none contain adware functionality," said Stefanko

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Huawei smartphones are seen in front of displayed Google Play logo in this illustration picture, May 20, 2019. VOA

Security researchers have detected a massive year-long adware campaign where the involved apps were installed on users’ Android devices eight million times from Google Play alone.

Slovak internet security company ESET identified 42 apps on Google Play as belonging to the campaign, which had been running since July 2018. Of those, 21 were still available at the time of discovery.

“We reported the apps to the Google security team and they were swiftly removed. However, the apps are still available in third-party app stores,” said the researchers in a statement on Thursday.

Once launched, the “Ashas” adware family app sent “home” key data about the affected device: device type, OS version, language, number of installed apps, free storage space, battery status, whether the device is rooted and Developer mode enabled, and whether Facebook and FB Messenger are installed.

“The app receives configuration data from the command and control server (C&C) server, needed for displaying ads, and for stealth and resilience,” said security researcher Lukas Stefanko.

Once a user installed an adware-infected app, the app will show full-screen ads on the device’s display at intervals.

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Google acquired Android Inc. for nearly $50 million in July 2005. Pixabay

First, the malicious app tries to determine whether it is being tested by the Google Play security mechanism.

After dodging Google servers, the malicious app can set a custom delay between displaying ads. Based on the server response, the app can also hide its icon and create a shortcut instead.

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“If a typical user tries to get rid of the malicious app, chances are that only the shortcut ends up getting removed. The app then continues to run in the background without the user’s knowledge. This stealth technique has been gaining popularity among adware-related threats distributed via Google Play,” the researchers noted.

According to the team, students at a Vietnamese university may be behind the malicious adware app.

“Due to poor privacy practices on the part of our culprit’s university, we now know his date of birth, we know that he was a student and what university he attended. We retrieved his University ID; a quick googling showed some of his exam grades,” said researchers.

“The malicious developer also has apps in Applea¿s App Store. Some of them are iOS versions of the ones removed from Google Play, but none contain adware functionality,” said Stefanko. (IANS)

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WhatsApp Dark Mode Rolling Out for Beta Testers on Android

Last week, WhatsApp added a new privacy setting, which will let users decide whether they want to join a group on the messaging platform or not

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WhatsApp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Website WaBetaInfo, which follows developments with the beta version of the app on Wednesday revealed that WhatsApp has started rolling out dark mode to users of its beta version for Android app.

Those who are using the beta version of the company’s Android app, can now download the version 2.20.13 of the app on their smartphones to get hands on the feature.

One can follow this path to enable dark theme on the app: Settings > Chats > Display > Theme > Dark Theme.

Along with the “Dark” option, one will reportedly see the “Light” option that is the normal theme, another will be “Set by battery saver” which is expected to automatically switch to light/dark theme and one may also see an option of “System default” which identifies the theme of your smartphone and sets the app’s theme accordingly.

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

Additionally, the iOS dark theme is also nearly set for release.

WhatsApp is also testing a new beta update for iOS users which would bring features like hide muted status update, splash screen and app badge improvements, among others.

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WhatsApp’s new splash screen would essentially let users see the WhatsApp logo whenever they open the app on their iPhones. This is also available on the Android beta app.

Last week, WhatsApp added a new privacy setting, which will let users decide whether they want to join a group on the messaging platform or not. (IANS)

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WhatsApp Becomes Second Non-Google App To Hit 5bn Installs on Android

Facebook owns four out of the top five most downloaded apps worldwide, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, that does not come as a surprise

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WhatApp
According to Statista, WhatsApp is most popular global mobile messenger app worldwide with approximately 1.6 billion monthly active users, outranking Facebook Messenger at 1.3 billion and WeChat at 1.1 billion users in 2019. Pixabay

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp for Android has now notched up a staggering five billion downloads, making it only the second non-Google app to achieve this milestone.

As with most Android applications that reach large amounts of installs, this number does not just include downloads from the Play Store, but also pre-installed copies like Samsung and Huawei has bundled the app with some smartphones in the past, AndroidPolice reported.

According to Statista, WhatsApp is most popular global mobile messenger app worldwide with approximately 1.6 billion monthly active users, outranking Facebook Messenger at 1.3 billion and WeChat at 1.1 billion users in 2019. Following Facebook and YouTube, it is the third most popular social network worldwide.

As for the Google Play store, South Korea was the fastest-growing WhatsApp market, with downloads of the mobile messaging app increasing almost 56 percent in 2019.

Additionally, Google for the first time in five years, unseated Facebook as the top publisher of mobile apps.

In the last quarter of 2019, Google amassed close to 850 million downloads compared to Facebook‘s nearly 800 million, analytics firm Sensor Tower revealed recently.

When it comes to overall downloads for the year, however, Google still trails behind Facebook.

While Google raked in nearly 2.3 billion downloads, Facebook gained almost 3 billion downloads over the past 12 months.

WhatsApp
Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp for Android has now notched up a staggering five billion downloads, making it only the second non-Google app to achieve this milestone. Pixabay

Facebook owns four out of the top five most downloaded apps worldwide, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, that does not come as a surprise.

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ByteDance-owned video sharing app TikTok was the world’s second-most downloaded app in 2019. (IANS)

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US Judge Orders Facebook to Disclose Malicious Apps’ Data: Report

The social networking giant found that the apps -- primarily social media management and video streaming apps -- retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API (application programming interface)

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The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

As part of a probe ordered in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal involving 87 million users, a US judge has ordered Facebook to hand over data of thousands of apps that violated its user privacy.

Facebook admitted last year that it suspended “tens of thousands” of apps for possible privacy violations.

A Massachusetts judge rejected the social networking giant’s attempts to withhold the key details from state investigators, The Washington Post said in a report on Friday.

“We are disappointed that the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Court didn’t fully consider our arguments on well-established law. We are reviewing our options, including appeal,” a Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone was quoted as saying in the report.

Maura Healey, the Democratic Attorney General of Massachusetts, said: “We are pleased that the Court ordered Facebook to tell our office which other app developers may have engaged in conduct like Cambridge Analytica.”

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FILE – Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

The state of Massachusetts launched the probe last September after Facebook admitted that it had suspended “tens of thousands” of apps on its platform as a result of its review on privacy practices launched following the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.

The review, launched in 2018, followed revelations that the political consultancy hijacked personal data on millions of Facebook users and included attorneys, external investigators, data scientists, engineers, policy specialists and others, according to a Facebook statement.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal resulted in a record-breaking, $5 billion fine for Facebook from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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In November 2019, Facebook revealed that at least 100 app developers may have accessed Facebook users’ data for months, confirming that at least 11 partners “accessed group members’ information in the last 60 days”.

The social networking giant found that the apps — primarily social media management and video streaming apps — retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API (application programming interface). (IANS)