Downloading a free antivirus or cleaner app for your Android smartphone can put your privacy and security at risk than if you had avoided doing it altogether, as many of these apps contain data trackers and even links to potentially malicious domains. .
To fill out your new report, Cyber news studied the 40 most downloaded and highest ranked Android antivirus and cleaning apps on the Google Play Store to find that many of these apps fall short of the high standards of similar software on desktop. Even worse, among them these apps have been installed more than 918 million times, and the most popular have over 1 million installs each.
Cyber newsThe research team provided more information on its findings and explained why users might be tempted to download these apps in a blog post, saying:
“Based on the total install count, common Android users are eager to protect their phones from malware and interested in keeping their devices running as fast as possible by cleaning junk files and cache. Less tech-savvy users are likely to download an app to do all this tedious work automatically. However, many of the free options available have a hidden price: user data is being tracked, sold, or managed in an insecure way due to questionable coding and privacy practices of application developers. “
Red flags in abundance
After delving into each of the 40 apps in question, Cyber news so he gave each a safety score out of 100.
13 of the apps were rated so damaging to privacy by the news that they scored as low as possible due to “questionable coding practices”, while six contained probable malicious links that could put Android users looking to protect their devices more at risk of having their smartphones hacked.
Keep Clean Cleaner antivirus app took the top spot among these malicious apps with a rating of 54 out of 100 for safety. Meanwhile, last place went to the Safe Security Antivirus booster and phone cleaner app which received a score of nine.
Cyber news was unable to parse two of the 40 apps likely due to obfuscation, a method used by developers to reject reverse engineering. However, obfuscation can also be used to hide something malicious like malware.
It’s worth noting that nearly all 40 apps contained trackers and while some only had a handful, others like Nova Security had thirty.
If something is free there is always a cost and in the case of these antivirus and cleaner apps, it’s your privacy and potentially your security. While normally reading reviews, checking ratings, and seeing how many downloads an app has would be enough to let you know if it’s legitimate, this isn’t always the case as shown by Cyber newslast report.