Cybersecurity experts are warning that a new type of malicious software known as Gooligan has infected more than 1 million Android devices worldwide and is spreading at a rate of 13,000 devices a day. The malware has the ability to affect Gmail, Google Photos, Google Drive and related services.
Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist for the Santa Clara company Intel Security, discussed the problem.
How does the Gooligan software get into Android phones, and what does it do once it’s inside?
We have seen Gooligan being distributed in a couple of ways. First, by people visiting an infected website. We are using our smartphones increasingly to surf the Web. The bad guys know this and are using your browsing behavior to infect your device. We have also seen it being distributed in third-party app stores.
Once your phone is infected, Gooligan basically [gains root access to] your device — after which it can take total control and access anything on your device.
So far, Gooligan has hit Asia hardest. Is this likely to become a major problem in the United States?
It is very likely that we will see this become an issue in the United States. We often see bad actors hone their malware and distribution methods in emerging markets like Asia before targeting more mature markets. We could also see them modify the way the malware is distributed by doing things such as sending emails with malicious links.
Is there an easy way for Android users to determine whether Gooligan has infected their phones?
A couple of vendors have a free tool where you can enter your email to see if it has been impacted. You should also download an antivirus app for your Android device. It will help protect against malware infections, along with other threats to your Android device.
What should people do if their phone has been infected?
The safest thing to do if your smartphone is infected is delete everything on the device and do a factory reset. Before doing this, make sure all your data is backed up. A great bit of advice for everyone is to frequently back up all your devices. Doing so will help you get a fresh start should something go bad.