Downloading a free antivirus or cleaner app for your Android smartphone can put your privacy and security at greater risk than if you avoided it altogether, as many of these apps contain data trackers and even links to potentially harmful domains.
To compile his new report, Cyber news examined the top 40 and most downloaded cleaning and Android antivirus apps on the Google Play Store to find that many of these apps don’t meet the high standards of comparable software on desktop. Even worse, between them, these apps have been installed more than 918 million times and the most popular have more than 1 million installs each.
Cyber newsThe research team provided further insight into its findings, explaining why users may be tempted to download these apps in a blog post, saying:
“Based on the total number of installs, regular Android users like to protect their phones from malware and get their devices up and running as quickly as possible by cleaning junk files and cache. Less tech-savvy users are likely to download an app to do this tedious job automatically, however, many of the free options come with a hidden price: user data is tracked, sold, or managed downright insecurely due to questionable encryption and privacy practices of the application developers.
Red flags galore
After a deep dive into each of the 40 apps in question, Cyber news then each gave a safety score out of 100.
13 of the apps were rated by the news outlet as so damaging to privacy that they scored the lowest possible mark for “dubious encryption practices”, while six likely contained malicious links that leave Android users looking to secure their devices more at risk on their smartphones. hack.
Keep Clean Cleaner antivirus app took the top spot among these bad apps with a security score of 54 out of 100. 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 analyze two of the 40 apps, possibly due to obfuscation, a method used by developers to fend off reverse engineering. However, obfuscation can also be used to hide something malicious, such as malware.
It’s worth noting that almost all 40 apps included trackers, and while some only had a handful, others, like Nova Security, had 30 of them.
When something is free there is always a cost and in the case of these antivirus and cleaner apps it is your privacy and possibly your security. While it’s normally enough to read reviews, check ratings, and see how many downloads an app has had to let you know if it’s legit, this isn’t always the case, as evidenced by Cyber newslast report.