Category: APPS

Review: Should I Answer

www.shouldianswer.com is a website about cold callers and fraudsters. There is a Should I Answer APP which warns you against all kinds of unwanted calls and can block callers if you choose.

These were created by Mister Group ltd who explain their mission to be:

“We have gained the first experience on our own few years ago. Our friends and people around us started to be bothered by telemarketing calls, which were rapidly raising in our country those days. Some of our friends even lost their money because of these telemarketing scams! So we decided to do something about it – and that’s the story about how the Should I Answer APP was born.”

“Our goal is to make our smart devices friendlier to regular users, so they should serve exactly the purpose the users want them to – not to the purpose the other dark side tries to force us. Telemarketing, number spoofing, unsolicited calls… all such activities are in our radar, and we try every day with all the possible powers to make them behave within legal boundaries.”

How It Works

The Should I Answer APP uses a huge database of spam and telemarketing calls from numbers reported to Do Not Call Registry, numbers reported to Federal Communication Commission and of all the community reviews at Should I Answer.

How is The Service Paid For?

Should I Answer say they try to keep as much of the project for free as possible. Plus, there are adverts on screen and donations.

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Google Play Store Hidden Adverts

Researchers from Avast issued a warning about 47 apps they had found on Google Play Store that are disguised as games but contain adware.

Adware is a type of malicious software that inundates you with incessant pop-ups and messages, such as

“CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE BEEN SELECTED FOR A FREE SAMSUNG GALAXY S20! CLICK HERE!”.

These APPS are not malicious, but include adware technology that the user does not know about and is used by spammers and scammers to target people. This can result in your smartphone being overloaded with intrusive and sometimes unpleasant adverts.

Besides being annoying, adware can track the websites you visit and access your personal information,.

These apps had already been downloaded more than 15 million times when found by AVAST.

Avast has provided some tips to help you spot malicious apps:

  1. Carefully check the permissions the app requests before installing it. See what the app is asking to access. If it’s asking for data it should not need, consider this a red flag
  2. Read the privacy policy and the terms and conditions. Most people never do, but you can miss key points on what the APP does if you do not read these.
  3. Read the user reviews and if there’s anything worrying or too many bad reviews then consider dumping the APP.
  4. Install strong anti-malware on your device so that adware and other malicious apps are automatically blocked.

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The BBC Own It APP

Social media is a great invention and for many people it can be a lifeline, communications with friends, a creative outlet and much more.

But there is of course a darker side to it – bullying, fake news, false images, scams and for many a place to vent their opinions and sometimes prejudices to the cost of others.

The BBC has created an APP called Own It, aimed at children and is advertising it regularly on its channels.

The APP monitors how a young people interacts with friends and family online and through messaging apps.

It evaluates a child’s mood so it can offer advice or encourage them to talk to trusted adults.

The app is designed to offer help and support especially if children are about to share sensitive data or send an upsetting message.

Alice Webb of the BBC said the app would act as a “helping hand” to guide children into developing good habits when using their first phone and avoid some of the potential pitfalls of digital life.

The Own It app also has its own content that aims to help children manage the amount of time they spend looking at their screen and passes on other advice about responsible online interaction.

The BBC said the app would also regularly encourage children to talk to parents and guardians about good and bad online experiences and their phone use.

Prof Sonia Livingstone, a social psychologist said “Based on my research on children’s online risks and opportunities, I think it should be very helpful for children, especially younger ones, and ideally would also stimulate constructive conversations between children and parents.”

She said one of the “strengths” of the app was the effort it took to protect a child’s privacy. This stood in contrast to other apps that many parents use to monitor and control their children’s online lives.

The Own It app began development in 2018 and has drawn on input and support from many different child-focused charities and welfare groups, including – the Mental Health Foundation, the Anti-Bullying Alliance, the NSPCC, the Diana Award and Childnet.

The app is being launched against a background of research which shows how concerned some parents are about phone use among their offspring.

Well done the BBC. Let’s hope the APP helps a lot of young people.

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Mobile Device Malware “Judy”

The Korean company Kikiwini published 41 Android APPS under the name ENISTUDIO Corp.

It was discovered in 2017 that these could have infected up to 36.5 million Android devices by hidden malware that produced fake advert clicks.

Security firm Check Point identified these apps and realised these infected devices could be used to generate large amounts of fraudulent clicks on advertisements, generating revenues for the creators of the malware.

The malware was dubbed “Judy” by Check Point after the title character in Kiniwini’s apps. Chef Judy: Picnic Lunch Maker, for example, encourages players to “create delicious food with Judy

Google removed the apps from Google Play once it had informed of the problem.

How does Judy infect a device?

Hackers create a harmless app that can get around Google’s security screening and it is added to the app store.

Once it has been downloaded by users, it silently registers with the makers servers for update.  That update is not just latest software, content and adverts etc. It contains the code and list of web addresses. The APP then opens a browser window and starts to make clicks on the listed websites on the selected adverts. These clicks are registered by networks such as Google Ads and in time will produce payments to the makers.

This kind of cheating has been used in the past but this is one of the worst such examples and it circumvents Google APP security which they will not be pleased about.

Kiniwini also develop APPS for Apple devices but so far there are no reports of problems with those APPS.

This all happened a few years ago, but shows the dangers of relying on Google’s screening process for APPS. Be careful with any APPS you download.

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Stupidest Spam of the Week X-RAY Phone

Most of the APPS on Google Play and the APPLE store are genuine and safe to use.

But there are some to be wary of that are just enticements to spend money or are fake or attempt to install malware on your device and so on.

Then there are hoax and joke APPS that may claim to be something worthwhile but are just for a laugh.

X-Ray scanning APPS are something that people do search for and download.

Some such as “X-Ray Body Scanner prank” make it obvious they are just for fun. If you download this one you might expect to see somehow faked x-rays when you hold the phone over a body part. In practice it’s so full of ads you can hardly see the prank photos.

“X-Ray Wall Scanner HD Simulator” says “Scan room, kitchen, toilet, bathroom, bedroom or others and make a joke to your girlfriend or boyfriend!”.  People who have downloaded it say there are so many video apps and things you have to click on that there is no space left for the supposed fun element.

“X-Ray Alien Scanner Prank” shows pop up aliens against real backgrounds and is fun.

But, scammers send out adverts for supposedly ‘real’ body scanning APPS, X-Ray APPS and so on that are simply a con. You pay (of suffer the adverts) and get a fake picture. This is similar to the classified adverts for X-Ray spectacles that used to be popular many years ago. Obviously there is no such thing as X-Ray glasses but people did buy them and some people buy these equivalent APPS.

You can only get an X-Ray done at hospital. There will never be an APP that can do that.

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APP Shielding

When developers create a new APP and it becomes popular – there are hackers who want to get into the APP for one of several reasons

  1. The intellectual challenge of seeing how it works
  2. To understand how it works so they can create viruses or other malware that can attack it
  3. To find out if they can hijack the APP to do their bidding

An intellectual challenge isn’t threatening to others but the other reasons are criminal and it does happen that even APPS on APPLE and Android Pplay stores can be cheated by hackers and in some cases there has been a major loss of money and reputation as these problems come to light.

To prevent hackers getting into their APP, developers can use various coding techniques (called APP shielding), usually classified as

  1. Obfuscation and
  2. Integrity checks

APP shielding is important in many cases and especially with financial APPS.

App shielding is designed to prevent attackers from modifying your app during runtime or at rest, to protect your app’s memory, make app repackaging extremely complex, and provide additional protection against mobile malware.

What Can APP Shielding Do?

  • Prevents and effectively stops the most common types of cyber attacks on mobile apps.
  • Stop Mobile Malware
  • Advanced obfuscation and integrity checks prevents the APP being reverse-engineered which can lead to it being repackaged and released on the app marketplace under a new name.
  • Protect User Data
  • Stop untrusted keyboards, malicious screen readers or screen recorders from stealing the sensitive data, as well as the data leakage via user or system screenshots.

Recent research shows that :-

  • Of 1.7 million apps on the Google Play store, only 24.5% had any Code Protection.
  • 86% of Malware is delivered through APPS that have been re-packaged.

These numbers are of concern as we trust downloads from Google Play store and APPLE but maybe we shouldn’t be so trusting.

Increasingly, developers tool kits will contain code for implementing APP shielding, so it should become common practice for APP developers.

If you have any experience with APP shielding, do let me know, by email.

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