Android phones may contain hidden malware

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Your cell phone may be doing bad things and you don’t even know about it.

Security experts have discovered a piece of malware hidden in Android apps that has infected 36.5 million smartphones. The virus, known as “Judy,” was hidden in 41 different applications on the Google Play Store.

Derek Gower runs Raleigh Re-Cell & Repair, a shop working on both phones and computers. According to Gower, typically it’s more likely for computers to get viruses than cell phones because apps on most smartphones are screened by their developers.

“Typically the companies like Google and Apple curate and vet them before they go out to be downloaded,” Gower says. “That takes care of most of the issues they have.”

All applications known to contain the virus have since been removed from the Play Store by Google.

Pieces of malware like Judy are called Trojan Horse viruses thanks to their deceptive nature.

What may look like a fun or interesting game could prove harmful once downloaded to a phone — like the Judy apps, which turn an infected device into a money generator by forcing the phone to rapidly click advertisements without the user’s knowledge.

Other malicious code hidden in some apps on the Google Play Store take advantage of a technology called “near-field communication,” the same set of protocols powering wireless payment systems like Android Pay and Apple Pay.

“This phone can steal your credit card information,” said Walt Augustinowicz, founder of security company Identity Stronghold, told us as back as November 2013.

If you own an Android phone, before you click “continue” on the permissions page, check and see if the Android app uses near field commutation. If it does, ask yourself, “should this app be communicating wirelessly?” If not, don’t download it.

If you or your kids have downloaded one of the Judy apps on your android phone, the best thing to do is to simply delete it. A list of malicious apps containing Judy is available here.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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