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Cleaner apps hiding malware
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Security & privacy

13 dangerous apps that pretend to clean your phone’s files

Between thousands of photos, shared videos and information-intensive applications, your mobile phone’s internal storage can fill up quickly. And if you aren’t sure what is using up the most space, it often involves sifting through the settings to find the culprits.

However, there are a few apps that can do that for you. They scan all the folders, browser cache, system files and games to determine where you can free up some real estate. Many of these apps are helpful, but some only pretend to clean up your device.

Read on for 13 dangerous apps recently found to be hiding malware.

Here’s the backstory

McAfee’s Mobile Research Team found several apps on the Google Play Store that aren’t what they seem. The apps promote themselves as mobile cleaners, promising to remove junk and unused files so your Android device can run smoother.

But instead of doing that, the apps hide malware and continuously show advertisements on the infected device. Furthermore, you don’t need to open the app for the malicious code to start working, as simply downloading it to your phone is enough to trigger it.

According to McAfee, some of the apps hide on the infected device by changing their icon and name to something familiar. The built-in automatic advertising is so aggressive that it pops up every time you install, uninstall, or update apps.

Here’s a list of the malicious apps grouped into the number of downloads:

  • Junk Cleaner (1 million downloads)
  • Keep Clean
  • Full Clean – Clean Cache
  • Quick Cleaner
  • Power Doctor (500,000 downloads)
  • Windy Clean
  • Cool Clean
  • Super Clean
  • Fingertip Cleaner
  • Strong Clean
  • EasyCleaner (100,000 downloads)
  • Carpet Clean
  • Meteor Clean

What you can do about it

In most cases, Google quickly acts when malicious applications appear on the Play Store, removing them before spreading too wide. But don’t leave cybersecurity up to Big Tech. You also need to take precautions on your own.

Here are some tips on how to stay safe:

  • Before downloading an app, check the reviews to see what others say about it. If it has a relatively low rating, don’t download it.
  • Even though some bad apps can slip through, only download applications from the official app stores. Third-party libraries don’t have the security standards of official app stores, and you’re more likely to find bad apps there.
  • Pay attention to permissions. Stay away if an app wants full access to your text messages or notifications. 
  • Have trustworthy antivirus software on all your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Right now, get an annual plan of TotalAV Internet Security for only $19 at ProtectWithKim.com. That’s over 85% off the regular price!

Keep reading

Gmail storage full? This could be why – and how to fix it

17 more dangerous Android apps spotted – Delete these now

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