Android malware infects 1 million phones globally

SAN FRANCISCO — A new variant of a well-known malware program has infected more than one million phones around the world that run older versions of Google's Android operating system, a security firm reported Wednesday.

The malware campaign, named Googlian, attacks phones running the Android 4 and 5 operating systems, known as Jelly Bean, KitKat and Lollipop, and according to Check Point Software Technologies can potentially access information from users' other Google accounts.

However, Google said in a blog post that it had found no evidence of other fraudulent activity within affected Google accounts.

The software is part of "GhostPush," a family of apps that once installed, try to download other apps. Google said that it has been tracking this family of malware since 2014 and so far has detected and prevented the installation of over 150,000 variations of Ghost Push.

The problem only affects Android phone users who have downloaded apps from a non-approved Android site. Those who buy their apps on the Google Play store are safe, Check Point said.

That's likely why of the 1 million breached accounts, only 19% are in "The Americas," according to Check Point. Presumably, a high number of those are outside of the United States as buying apps from non-approved sites tends to be more common outside the United States.

Google said it has contacted affected users, removed apps associated with the problem and added new protections to its Verify Apps technology.

The problem is similar to an issue that surfaced with malware that could affect iPhones running non-Apple approved apps in 2015.

The moral of the story is that consumers should stick with legitimate sources for their apps, said Dimitri Sirota, CEO of BigID, a data protection company.

"The best policy for avoiding this type of unfortunate situation is to look at the reputation of the purveyor — buy your Gucci from a Gucci store, get your news from a publication with a reputation at stake and download your apps from certified stores like Google Play," he said.

Google also reminded users of Android phones to keep their devices up to date and thus secure.

" Because Ghost Push only uses publicly known vulnerabilities, devices with up-to-date security patches have not been affected," its blog post said.


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