Ugh, Now Even Antivirus Apps Are Giving Users Viruses

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Note to self: Do not download an antivirus app on a whim.
According to a report from cybersecurity company RiskIQ, hundreds of apps masquerading as antivirus protectors are actually carrying the very thing they claim to fight: malware. The report, first picked up by CNET, says the malicious apps started appearing after the global WannaCry ransomware attack, which attacked the Windows operating system.
When those kinds of attacks occur, people are more likely to search for ways to protect their own devices. The most obvious option: antivirus software. But cybercriminals know that’s where you’ll go, making it especially important to do your research before downloading just any app.
RiskIQ found that hundreds of active antivirus apps are potentially dangerous, with 55 blacklisted apps appearing on the Google Play store.
Here’s how you can protect yourself moving forward. First, when you hear about a new scam, don’t rush to download protective software. Instead, take time to read through an app’s description. RiskIQ advises looking for grammatical errors. You can also look at an app's review. If there are hundreds of positive reviews, that’s a good sign. One or two reviews full of mistakes? You should probably skip that app and move on to the next.
The cybersecurity company also points people toward VirusTotal, a Google subsidiary, that will analyze submitted URLs for free. If you want to know if something is safe or not, send it there.
Finally, make sure to read through an app's permissions before clicking accept. This is something you should do when downloading any app, but few of us actually take the time to read the fine print. Look to make sure the app isn’t asking for anything that seems unnecessary and ensure that the developer’s email address is linked to a reputable company.
Patience is a virtue; possess it if you want to keep your phone safe.
We reached out to Google for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

More from Tech


R29 Original Series