“Agent Smith” a new virus has hit mobile phones across the world infecting over 25 million devices to date and continues to spread and infect at alarming rates. The virus is mainly being spread through app downloads through third-party app stores like 9Apps. They are mainly complicit in applications such as photography, free games or adult entertainment apps. Whilst asking for app permissions the virus disguises itself as a Google Updater or a Google Themes so people don’t get suspicious.
Once the virus gains access to your phone it starts infecting apps such as WhatsApp with malicious malware. Coupled with that it can also compromise the security of your phone and has access to broad resources. Currently, it only shows fraudulent ads for financial gains but researchers at CheckPoint believe it can expand to a lot more functionality.
The virus has a predetermined list of apps that it is set to attack if they are found to be installed on your phone such as MX player, WhatsApp, ShareIt and more. After gaining access to your phone, the virus launches an APK file to establish itself in the core system of the device. The virus then proceeds to exploit any system vulnerabilities that it can find without any user interaction at all so the user is not going to be aware of any of these changes. After establishing access to the apps on its list it then proceeds to swap the innocent app with the malicious version of the app.
Of the 2.5 crore affected devices, 1.5 crores were determined to be in India. A noticeable number of downloads were also found in Pakistan, Bangladesh, UK, Australian, and the US. The primary reason for its huge number of infections in the subcontinent is due to the fact that the virus is spreading from app stores like 9Apps that target users of primary languages Hindi, Arabic, Russian and Indonesian. Since the app uses such devious methods to gain secure access to your phone, it is recommended to download your apps from regulated app stores such as the Play Store or the App Store which have better regulations regarding the security of the apps on their store as compared to stores such as 9Apps. Using these alternative app stores might seem a lot more attractive as you could potentially obtain paid apps for free, but there is a price to pay after all. It is better not to download these apps rather than downloading such sleazy apps. Google Play store has removed 16 apps that are believed to have been infected by the virus.
You will be able to notice an elevated number of ads and pop-ups on your phone and that is a sign of the virus if you have downloaded an app from such alternative play stores. To stop “Agent Smith” from gaining further access to your phone and to prevent your secure details from being stolen it is recommended that you uninstall affected apps or even reset your phone to be able to save your privacy.