Beware of scareware on smartphones; here is how to avoid trouble

The latest threat to Android smartphones that has emerged is that some links that are being sent to people and those who click on them, suffer damage. — Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

The number of smartphone users has exploded. However, along with this, another thing that is exploding is cybercrime. Criminals have gone online in increasing numbers to try and swindle money out of people, steal data, even serve them ads that generate cash for them or simply mess with their smartphones.

With Android smartphones being the largest component of the phone-packing public, the threat perception here is the highest. The latest such threat that has emerged is that some links that are being sent to people and those who click on them, suffer damage. This is a warning to all those people who have Google Android mobile phones on what not to do.

On a daily basis, there are so many messages that a smartphone user gets. However, before clicking on any of them, users must think through what is being said there – mostly they are about luring people to click with false promises or offers. However, it is sometimes tough to tell as URL shorteners are used, which hide the name of websites, raising the confusion quotient to a new level.

But now, another worrying aspect has come up – fraudsters now try to even scare people into clicking on these links. These have been dubbed scareware.

It has been seen that some of these links even want users to download cleaner apps to get rid of malware on their smartphones, but the very opposite of that happens. The links may well carry malware that gets loaded on smartphones and these allow cybercriminals access to a user’s password and other sensitive banking or personal information that can be misused to steal or even blackmail them.

According to ESET malware researcher Lukas Stefanko, “The problem is that some of these link shortener services use aggressive advertising techniques such as scareware ads: informing users their devices are infected with dangerous malware, directing users to download dodgy apps from the Google Play store or to participate in shady surveys, delivering adult content.”

He added, “We discovered one piece of malware we named Android/FakeAdBlocker, which downloads and executes additional payloads (such as banking trojans, SMS trojans, and aggressive adware).”

What users can do about this is simple – they should ignore these messages and never click on them. However, in case mistakes have been made, there are ways to try and get rid of this malware.

ESET report says that users should go to “Settings -> Apps. Because the malware doesn't have an icon or an app name, it should be easy to spot”.

Thereafter, all that needs to be done is click on Uninstall. Also, to remove the related spam events created by this malware, users can use a free app called Calendar Cleanup that is available on Google Play Store. – Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Tribune News Service

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