Here we go again, don’t install trivial apps from random developers because they look fun and have tons of downloads from the play store. The latest warning came from CyberNews research team, exposing “Camera apps with billions of downloads [that] could steal user data and infect them with malware.
The team focused on so-called “beauty cameras,” you know the drill: flash filters to spice up or add comedy filters to selfies before they’re posted and shared. And while users expect “a makeup or cartoon filter,” CyberNews warns, “you don’t expect these apps to grab and sell your data, plague you with non-stop malicious ads, you redirect to phishing websites or even spy on you. “
But that is exactly what is happening. The team analyzed the top search results for “beauty camera” on the Play Store and didn’t have to dig deep. CyberNews report says BeautyPlus, the number one app with 300 million installs, “has been identified as malware or spyware,” its developer allegedly collected data from servers in China from where it was located. sold. It would be your data, remember.
As we see so often, most of the apps are from China. And, again, as we see so often, several were tied to the same developer network. These common developer roots mean common sets of codes and methodologies. More apps just means more downloads. More users. More data. More money.
If your suspicions are not triggered by these free apps with countless downloads, then take a look at the requested permissions. That’s the danger here. These apps will often search for access to your data, contacts, camera, and even your phone. And whatever threat they pose to themselves, maybe just by selling your basic data to target you with ads, once those permissions are granted, you’ve left yourself open. Remember that applications like these link to malicious operators and their command and control servers. That means your the device is connected to them.
Beyond scam ads, apps can target users with phishing messages with links to malicious URLs, they can plant malware, arrange for the installation of other malware, track your device, and even, in in extreme cases, accessing elements of your device as spyware.
CyberNews investigated the top 30 search results, finding one app that turns on a user’s camera without asking for permission first, another app installing malware through its software, even an app accused of “sending to users pornographic content, redirect them to phishing sites or collect their photos. The team also found that almost half of the apps access GPS locations, 23 access device microphones, and 29 access device cameras, which is not surprising for a photo app. 29 of the applications also request permission to read user data. Once these permissions are granted, applications have carte blanche.
As always with such malicious apps, a small number of permissions are actually required to function as advertised. But a series of other permissions are requested by almost everyone. Let’s face it, these operators don’t plug in legitimate software. Even the most harmless seek to sell questionable ads. So you can take responsibility for everyone’s harm.
The full list of 30 apps can be found here and is listed below:
- BeautyPlus – Easy Photo Editor and Selfie Camera
- Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera & Photo Editor
- Beauty Camera Plus – Soft Camera & Makeup Photo
- Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera & Photo Editor
- YouCam Perfect – Best Selfie Camera & Photo Editor
- Sweet Snap Beauty Selfie Camera and Face Filter
- Sweet Selfie Snap – Sweet Camera & Beauty Cam Snap
- Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera with Photo Editor
- Beauty Camera – Best Selfie Camera & Photo Editor
- B612 – Beauty camera and filter
- Face Makeup Camera & Beauty Photo Makeup Editor
- Sweet Selfie – Selfie Camera & Makeup Photo Editor
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera and Makeup Camera
- YouCam Perfect – Best Photo Editor & Selfie Camera
- Beauty Camera Makeup Face Selfie, Photo Editor
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera
- Z beauty camera
- HD Selfie Beauty Camera
- Candy Camera – selfie, beauty camera and photo editor
- Makeup Camera-Selfie Beauty Filter Photo Editor
- Beauty Selfie Plus – Sweet Camera Wonder HD Camera
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera and AR Stickers
- Cute makeup, beauty photo editor and selfie camera
- Beauty camera
- Bestie – Camera360 Beauty Camera
- Photo Editor – Beauty Camera
- Beauty makeup, selfie camera effects and photo editor
- Selfie Camera – Bestie Makeup Beauty Camera & Filters
You can check if any of them have been downloaded and, if so, make sure they are deleted immediately. But here are some simpler tips. If you’ve installed some kind of beauty camera from the Play Store, it might be a good idea to remove it just in case. “There are bigger, more reliable apps that have similar functionality,” suggests CyberNews, apps that are “more responsible and with a clearer ownership structure”.
The team suggests the likes of Messenger, Snapchat, and Instagram. I don’t have to remind you of the problems these apps have as well, albeit of a different variety and scale. And so the basic tip for being careful what you download and what permissions you grant are relevant to everything on your device. No easy answers, I’m afraid.