PUAs: Not quite malware, but still risky
It’s worth mentioning the widespread presence of potentially unwanted applications (PUA). PUAs are Android apps that may not strictly qualify as malware, but may nevertheless introduce security or other risks.
First, many users have installed apps that link to aggressive advertising networks, can track their devices and locations, and may even capture contact data. These apps earn their profits simply by serving pornographic advertising. Many companies may wish to eliminate them due to the information they expose, or because they may have a duty of care to protect employees from inappropriate content and a potentially hostile work environment.
Second, some sophisticated Android users have chosen to install Andr/DrSheep-A on their own devices. Similar to the well-known desktop tool Firesheep, Andr/DrSheep-A can sniff wireless traffic and intercept unencrypted cookies from sites like Facebook and Twitter. The legitimate use for this tool is to test your own network. However, it is often used to impersonate nearby users without their knowledge. We currently find Andr/DrSheep-A on 2.6% of the Android devices protected by Sophos Mobile Security. Corporate IT departments are unlikely to countenance the installation, let alone the use, of such tools.
If you “root” your device, it means you enable software to acquire full Android administrator privileges. The name comes from the administrator account, known as “root” on UNIX-like operating systems such as Android. Rooting is popular because it allows you greater control over your device—notably to remove unwanted software add-ons included by your service provider, and to replace them with alternatives of your own choosing.
Rooting bypasses the built-in Android security model that limits each app’s access to data from other apps. It’s easier for malware to gain full privileges on rooted devices, and to avoid detection and removal. For the IT organization supporting BYOD network access, rooted Android devices increase risk.
< Back Next >