Adware is one of the most common forms of malicious software out there. The frequency of adware's deployment is undoubtedly tied to its ability to earn money at the expense of the individual whose device has been infected. Adware doesn't get as much notice today compared to other forms of malware, but the threat of its infection should never be downplayed. It is this fact that Google had to contend with when they recently dealt with yet another wave of infected apps in their Play Store. The apps in question, 22 in total, were infected with an adware strain that was discovered by researchers at Check Point. The adware, dubbed "LightsOut" by researchers, is explained in a Check Point blog post as follows:
The malicious app offers the user a checkbox, as well as a control panel, in which they can enable or disable additional services, including the displaying of ads. The events that will trigger ads are any Wi-Fi connection, the ending of a call, a plugged in charger or the screen being locked. However, if the user chooses to disable these functions, ‘LightsOut’ can override the user’s decision and continue to display ads out of context. Since the ads are not directly connected to LightsOut’s activity, the user is unlikely to understand what caused them, and even if he does he won’t be able to find the app’s icon and remove it from his device.
As the analysis suggests, LightsOut is a step up from your run-of-the-mill adware as it can actively counter user actions. One has to wonder what else the adware is capable of in the right hands. The most concerning part of this particular revelation is the sheer number of possible victims of LightsOut. Check Point estimates that between 1.5 million and 7.5 million downloads of the infected apps occurred.
While Google Play no longer carries apps with LightsOut, the vast number of people with this adware still on their Android devices is a concern. An aggressive mobile protection software is vital and would take care of this. Unfortunately, as Check Point notes, many think that antivirus programs are enough to protect their mobile devices. The reality is that the threat landscape is far too complex for simple antivirus programs to work.
To protect yourself against LightsOut and other malware, seriously consider upping your defense options along with practicing common sense.