Video: In battle against malware, Google adds Play Protect logo to certified Android devices

Smartphone users often download security applications to help protect their device and data from cyberattacks and hackers. But criminals can also exploit this trend for their own ends, as demonstrated by a total of 36 phoney security tools discovered in the Google Play store which, instead of protecting the user, served up malware, adware, and even tracked the location of the device.

Uncovered by researchers at Trend Micro, various apps advertised themselves as providing security and other useful capabilities including cleaning up junk files, saving battery capacity, and more.

See: 17 tips for protecting Windows computers and Macs from ransomware (free PDF)

However, in addition, the malicious apps also sneakily harvested user data, tracked devices’ location, and repeatedly and aggressively pushed advertising onto the screen.

Malicious apps posing under names including Security Defender, Security Keeper, Smart Security, and Advanced Boost managed to slip past Play Store defences and onto the devices of Android users. It’s likely that by offering a handful of useful services to users and obfuscating their malicious activities, the apps were able to pass the verification process by appearing to be legitimate tools.

After installation, the malicious apps are designed to operate via push alerts which display alarmist warnings on intrusive pop-up windows. Once the app is running, the malware repeatedly bombards the user with fake security warnings.

Users were being…