More than a million Americans have downloaded Android adware over the past year, study finds

By on June 26, 2013, 3:00 PM

A new study from security firm Lookout reveals that over the past year, more than a million American Android users have downloaded adware without knowing it. Perhaps even more worrisome is that some 6.5 percent of free applications available via Google Play contain adware in some shape, form or fashion.

In a blog post on the topic, Lookout noted that adware – described as the most prevalent app-based mobile threat around the world today – can get in the way of user privacy and experience by doing things like capturing personal information such as e-mail, location data and address lists without proper notification and modifying phone settings without consent.

What exactly does and doesn’t constitute adware is still grey area to most as there’s not really a defined set of rules on the subject. Lookout did, however, come up with some guidelines that they use to differentiate a seemingly innocent ad from adware.

The firm classifies an app as containing adware if it displays advertising that’s outside of the normal experience, if it harvests unusual personally identifiable information or if it performs unexpected actions as a response to ad clicks.

Lookout also offers Android users some tips on what types of apps typically have adware. We’re told that some 26 percent of free personalization apps in Google Play contain some type of adware. Furthermore, nine percent of free games are laced with adware while social apps are the least likely to have it at just two percent.

User Comments: 4

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amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Yeah, I like my Droid 4 but its about as secure as a thong in Rosie O'donnell's drawer. I stay pretty safe with mine with everything I do, and even then I still don't do jack with it except check my eBay auctions & phone bill.

I've made a similar comment's about having more faith/feeling more protected on a Windows 2000 PC with AVG free then I do with my Droid.

MilwaukeeMike said:

A new study from security firm Lookout reveals that over the past year, more than a million American Android users have downloaded adware without knowing it.

That is surprising to me. I'd think that as soon as ads start showing up they'd know they downloaded some adware. I've done it, and I've just uninstalled the app and it goes away. Mine have been in the form of notifications that are ads. The tough part is if you download a bunch of wallpapers at once or something it'll be hard to tell which one is the offending ad. That's probably why 'personalization' is high category with ads... they get downloaded in groups.

Arris Arris said:

Most of this has to be through ignoring the details of what permissions the apps are asking for when installing them. Just clicking "Ok" regardless of the fact a wallpaper app wants to be able to read all your messages and send messages on your behalf. I run Avast mobile av on mines which makes me feel a lilttle more secure.

Timonius Timonius said:

Simple transparency is needed. Google Play just needs to add a required field stating that advertisements are used or not in for the particular application.

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