Save Our Selfies, Part 1: Android Hacks and Viruses

July 17, 2015

On August 31, 2014, life as we all knew it changed drastically. Three words: Celebrity. Nude. Leaks! Maybe not everyone was drooling over Jennifer Lawrence, or pining over Rihanna, but everybody heard about it, and most people saw their leaked pics. The 2014 celebrity photo leak led many of us to wonder, how safe are my selfies? Were there viruses attacking the iCloud, targeted hackings on those famous faces, or a different problem altogether? If JLaw isn’t safe, does that mean the not-so-famous are compromised as well?

Don’t worry friends, the Screen Queen is here to calm your nerves.

In this two-part series, we’ll discuss what security risks affect iOS and Android devices, how to minimize those risks, how to recognize a compromised device, and how to rid your infected device of malware.

Not all hacks and viruses are the same. And there are major differences in security between the two leading smartphone operating systems – Apple’s iOS and Android. So, who is safer, Apple or Android users? We know from photos and personal accounts that the celebrities who’s pics were leaked used iPhones. But that doesn’t mean that Android is safer than Apple. In fact, Android smartphones have greater security risks to the average user.

Android phones use the Google Play Store to download apps to the devices. Unlike the iTunes App Store, there is no database checking the validity of the new apps being uploaded to Google Play. After jumping through a few minor hoops, Android app designers can upload whatever they’ve created to the Google Play Store. That means a malicious software designer has the ability to create an app that may look legitimate but serves a hidden purpose. These designers upload their app to the Google Play Store and infect the phones of users who unknowlingly download the malicious app.

The only way that an Android phone can get a virus is through their app store. However, every Android App must be downloaded through Google Play, so users can’t avoid Google Play completely. Thus, the likelihood of an Android user getting a virus is relativelyh high. The first line of defense is recognizing risky apps and avoiding them. In short, users should only download app that are supported by Google Play or created by a reputable, well-reviewed app company.

You may ask, “What can these viruses even do?” Well, be prepared, because they can seriously affect your privacy, personal information, and of course, any photos you might have in your account.

If you are unfortunate enough to have your Android phone infected by malicious software, there are several areas of the devices that the virus can attack. Some viruses are similar to those found on PCs, such as pop-up ads. Luckily, as annoying as these ads are, they are relatively harmless, though they can slow down your device and cause you to accidentally click an ad when it pops up unexpectedly. Other viruses affect the “motor functions” of your device. This type of malware can randomly open and close apps on your phone.

Though less common, more serious viruses can hack your personal settings, intercept your phone calls and emails, and steal your personal information. Some are designed to record your bank information, credit card information, logins and passwords. This info can later be used to hack into your accounts and steal your money or make unauthorized purchases. These viruses can be serious, but they can be removed!

Getting rid of a virus on your Android device is definitely easier than getting rid of that virus you picked up in Vegas two years ago. All you need to do is follow the steps below and become virus free!  First, download Avast Free Mobile Security. It is a free virus scanner for your phone.  Run a scan with Avast to find out which apps are malicious.

Then, go to Settings > Apps > Malicious App > Uninstall  > OK!

This will remove the bad app. Afterwards, we recommend running another scan to verify that your phone is virus free. Then we recommend doing a do a dance, because you did it! Read more about Android malware here.

Next time, we’ll talk about Apple iOS, iCloud and keeping your data secure.


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