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McAfee warns of dangers from Android "cleaner" apps

07 Feb 2013
Google Android Malware

Security firm McAfee has advised users to be weary of Android applications following the discovery of two 'cleaner' tools which contain malware.

Researcher Carlos Castillo said that a pair of applications were recently spotted in the Google Play market which claim to be device optimisation tools. While the apps claim to improve handset performance and speed, they are in fact executing a number of nefarious tasks without user notification or approval.

The McAfee researcher said that while the malware displays a phony status screen claiming to perform cache and application clean-up, the software accesses various components in the operating system to gather and upload data to a remote server.

The malicious activities include sending SMS messages to premium service numbers, remotely uploading user data and carrying out phishing attacks for Dropbox and Android log-in account credentials.

In addition to the Android attacks, Castillo noted that the malware also attempts to infect inserted SD cards with AutoRun attacks which can be executed when the card is later connected to a Windows PC

"This new distribution method may not be as effective because the latest version of Windows has AutoRun disabled by default; yet it is interesting to see Android malware trying to infect Windows computers," Castillo explained.

Experts have long advised users to be weary of suspicious or untrusted Android applications and remove any application which asks for unnecessary access to sensitive data or services.

While Google said that it has seen a significant drop in malware attacks since it instituted security screening tools and policies on the Play market, attacks on Android devices remain a danger for users, particularly those who use third-party services to download applications.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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