Info-tech

Pre-installed apps play key role in user devices getting infected with malware: report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 10, 2020 Published on July 10, 2020

Pre-installed default apps play an important role in terms of user devices getting infected with malware or adware, according to a recent Kaspersky report.

The report details how user devices get infected, with a system partition infection making the malicious files undeletable.

“A system partition infection entails a high level of risk for users of infected devices, as a security solution cannot access the system directories, meaning it cannot remove the malicious files,” Kaspersky explained.

According to the report, 14.8 per cent devices targeted by malware in 2019 suffered a system partition infection, with pre-installed apps having an important role to play.

“Pre-installed default applications also play a role here: depending on the brand, the risk of undeletable applications varies from one to five per cent in low-cost devices and goes up to 27 per cent in extreme cases,” the report said.

According to the report, this type of infection is gaining popularity in terms of hackers looking to infect devices with adware. Adware is a malicious threat actor that floods user devices with intrusive ads.

“Infection can happen via two paths: the threat gains root access on a device and installs adware in the system partition, or the code for displaying ads gets into the firmware of the device, before it even ends up in the hands of the consumer,” the report read.

“In some cases, adware modules were pre-installed before the user even received their device, which could lead to potentially undesired and unplanned consequences. For instance, many smartphones have functions providing remote access to the device – if abused, such a feature could lead to a data compromise of a user’s device,” it added.

These threats include various malicious programmes, including Trojans.

Kaspersky researchers added that a few vendors had openly admitted to embedding adware in their smartphones. Some vendors allow users to disable such apps, others are often undeletable. This leaves a user little choice between “buying the device at the full price, or a little cheaper with lifetime advertising.”

“Our analysis demonstrates that mobile users are not only regularly attacked by adware and other threats, but their device may also be at risk even before they purchased it,” said Igor Golovin, Kaspersky security researcher.

“Customers don’t even suspect that they are spending their cash on a pocket-sized billboard. Some mobile device suppliers focus on maximising profits through in-device advertising tools, even if those tools cause inconvenience to the device owners. But this is not a good trend – both for security and usability. I advise users to carefully consider the smartphone they are looking to buy and take these risks into account – at the end of the day, it is often a choice between a cheaper device or a more user-friendly one,” Golovin added.

The cybersecurity firm has warned users to check for user reviews before purchasing a device. Users can search for firmware updates or install alternate firmware in place of the infected one. However, it can prove to be equally risky at times. Users should also try opting for trusted cybersecurity solutions to secure their mobile devices.

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Published on July 10, 2020
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