Previous Virus Threats
Thankfully, as mentioned above, there are relatively few known viruses which can affect your Android phone. One of the best known outbreaks was a trojan-SMS virus known as Fakeplayer. This virus was capable of sending SMS messages from an infected phone to premium rate numbers without the user having any clue what was happening until their next bill arrived. Fakeplayer is thought to have infected hundreds of thousands of devices before it was identified and could be stopped.
Other well reported viruses include Gingermaster, which was used to steal user information from the infected device (including user ID, SIM details and IMEI numbers). This information could potentially be used to clone your phone, resulting in large bills which were nothing to do with you. DroidFungFu was different, giving hackers back door access to a users device and allowing then to copy or remove files stored on the phone.
DroidDream is sometimes called both a virus and malware. Whatever it was classified as, it wasn't something you would have wanted on your phone. Thought to have been included in as many as sixty fake apps on the Google Play Store in 2011, DroidDream installed additional software on the device and then stole data of various sorts. Google was quick to release a fix for this threat, but not before thousands of Android users were affected.
Google Vs Viruses
Google are quick to stamp on any virus outbreaks which come from apps on the Play Store, and have also taken steps to stop these apps appearing in the first place. But whilst apps are also available from third-party stores, and people are free to click on any link they want on their mobile browser, viruses and malware will only continue to increase.
Google takes the threat of malicious software as seriously as we might expect. It is getting quicker at removing suspect apps from the Play Store, and in 2012 the company introduced Bouncer. Bouncer provides automated scanning of the Play Store for potentially malicious software without disrupting the user experience or requiring developers to go through an application approval process. As well as Bouncer, Android also features several things that reduce the threat of malware and viruses.
- Sandboxing – A virtual wall between apps and system software, so it is more difficult for malicious apps to cause harm if they do get on your phone.
- Malware Removal – Android now has measures in place which prevent malware or viruses modifying the system software or hiding on a device. This makes malware removal easier.
- Permissions – Every time you install an app, you will be shown the permissions the app requires. If you don't think a game needs access to your phone dialler, for example, don't download the app.
Protecting Android From Viruses
It isn't really enough to let Google do all the work in detecting and fighting against viruses on your phone. Here are a few simple things you can do to reduce the risk of virus infection.
- Install Anti-virus Software – Just like on your home PC, there are numerous anti-virus apps available for Android phones. Choose one from a name you trust, and take the time to set it up properly.
- Avoid Sideloading – Installing apps from websites or app stores other than the Google Play Store leaves you open to virus infection. If you can't find an app in the official store, think carefully about why that would be.
- Disallow Unknown Sources – Usually found in the Security settings of your Android phone, Unknown Sources means anywhere other than the Play Store. This can help prevent .apk files being downloaded without you knowing.
- App Permissions – Always check the permissions an app needs before you download it. If you don't like the sound of any of the permissions, think carefully before you go ahead and install it on your phone.
- Software Updates – Keep on top of updates, both to the system and to individual apps. System updates, even incremental updates, often fix holes in the software which could potentially be used by malicious apps.