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BadNews not so bad, says Google

Android malware not installing SMS-spreading-spamware

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Google has broken its six-week silence on the BadNews malware, telling a US security conference that while it was justified in removing infected apps from Google Play, it had no evidence that BadNews was playing a part in the distribution of SMS-borne frauds.

Announcing its discovery of the malware, security company Lookout claimed BadNews started by behaving as a legitimate advertising network, but later would push the AlphaSMS SMS fraud malware to infected devices.

The Security Ledger is now reporting that Google Android security engineer Adrian Ludwig has cast doubt on that claim, speaking to an FTC event in Washington DC.

“We have observed the app and we've reviewed all the logs we have access to,” TSL quotes Ludwig as saying, and “we haven't seen a single instance of abusive SMS applications being downloaded as a result of BadNews.”

Ludwig agreed with Lookout that the 32 BadNews-carrying apps found on Google Play had downloads in the “low millions”, adding that Google had removed the apps because they violated the Android developer agreement.

Take-downs, he added, can happen for reasons other than the inclusion of malware: “removal doesn't necessarily mean [an] application is bad … we rarely confirm the reasons.”

The Register has asked Lookout Mobile Security to respond to Ludwig's comments. We would also note that it's feasible that zero logs of AlphaSMS downloads could indicate that users are simply ignoring messages inviting them to click on a link in an SMS. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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