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Battle Against Mobile Adware Not Over Yet, Security Firm Warns

Fri 21 Feb, 2014 // Firstnumber Team

According to figures published by the security firm Lookout, Google's recent crackdown on malicious ‘adware’ within Android apps has had an immediate impact on the amount of users encountering this type of mobile malware.

Covering various categories of mobile malware, the security technology company has published the figures for “encounter rates” in 2013. These figures indicate a sharp rise in adware rates between the second and third quarters of the year, followed by a significant decline in the last quarter. 

In a blog post on the war against adware, Lookout describes how the Play Store terms and conditions were updated by Google in September of last year, resulting in a cull of around 36,000 apps that contained ad networks which broke the new rules.

“Through Q3 2013, adware began to fall. By late 2013 the biggest offenders, LeadBolt, and RevMob updated their advertising SDKs to be compliant with the new guidelines providing a much less intrusive experience to users.”

Adware is still frequently encountered by mobile users, Lookout's report warns. There are still plenty of apps that steal users' personal data, inserting “occasionally disruptive, often offensive adverts” into the user experience. At the same time, Lookout points out that smartphone users are five times more likely to come across adware than malware.

“In this world where our personal phones are used in the corporate workplace, gaining unprecedented access to valuable information, it is even more important than ever before that we police advertising networks,” explains Lookout.

The report also notes the rise of “chargeware”, another mobile malware category. The term refers to apps which are often focused on pornographic content and are deliberately unclear about how they go about charging users. Furthermore, chargeware tends to be unclear about how users can unsubscribe.

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