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2 years ago

Symantec updates its scary (but wrong) Counterclank 'malware' claims

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Symantec has "adjusted" its statement to Computer World that as many as 5 million Android users may be affected by the latest bit of malware, coming to the conclusion that the applications in question are simply using an aggressive ad network SDK.  This mirrors the statement issued by Lookout, as well as our own.  (And as well as Computer World's Android Power faction.)

After initially telling users that the "malicious code" found in 13 Android Market applications was malware and capable of data theft and other nefarious activity, Symantec now says the apps in question are more akin to Windows adware and not inherently malicious.  

In other words, it's crapware.  This we can all agree with.  The apps in question use an advertisement SDK that allows things none of us likes -- it can add bookmarks, change your homepage, add shortcuts to the home screen and the like.  We've all installed some free Windows program from the web, and had it install (or try to install) browser toolbars, add shortcuts to the home screen for more spammy programs.  We all hated it then, and we hate it now.  What we hate even more is when a company that claims to be acting in the interest of our security jumps the gun and labels these types of programs the same way it would label a bot or trojan.  

We're mostly informed users here, and quickly realize the difference.  But how many of those who stumbled across websites parroting Symantec's cries of five million infected are as Android savvy as we are?  There's a good chance that it's not that many.  Instead those readers were left confused and concerned that they had been "hacked."

We hope that the rest of the web that followed along will update their stories with today's news. And more important -- we hope that app developers stay far away from this sort of thing. Lord knows we're going to stay away from them if they don't.

Source: Symantec

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2 years ago

Slingplayer for Kindle Fire due to land in Amazon Appstore tomorrow for $30

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Slingplayer for Android devices has been around for a while now. Sadly for Kindle Fire owners and their lack of the Android Market, they haven't been able to indulge upto now. Jan. 31 is the day though, as Slingplayer for Kindle Fire will be arriving in the Amazon Appstore for $30.

Shown off at CES, the interface is pretty much the same as the handset version, and thankfully matches the same price point as its Android Market brother. Definitely a welcome addition to Amazon's media consuming tablet. Download will be available at the source link below from tomorrow. Until then we'll just have to wait patiently. 

Source: Amazon Appstore

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2 years ago

Third-party Steam applications disappearing from the Android Market

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The official Steam for Android application hasn't been with us all that long, but an air of controversy already surrounds its arrival. Almost all of the third-party Steam applications have disappeared from the Android Market. 

If Valve happens to be involved in some way, the odd part is that the Steam API is publicly available for use. Seems a tad suspicious though. 

If you're using a third-party Steam application and you like it, it's probably not a good idea to uninstall it anytime soon. (Or at the very least pull it from your system for a backup.) No word yet on whether or not any of these applications will re-appear elsewhere, so for the time being it looks like the official app is all we got. 

Source: Droid Gamers

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2 years ago

London Bus Checker makes a stop on Android, wants to make London travel a bit easier

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Anyone who lives in or has ever visited London will be well aware of the often nightmarish transportation around the city. A new app to stop by the Android Market, London Bus Checker, aims to take away some of the pain of using a bus in the Capital. 

We'll get the boring bits out of the way first: It is a paid app, setting you back a very reasonable £1.24. There is a "lite" version though which offers up a 30-day free trial before you have to open your wallet. 

The idea behind it is very simple, to provide anyone planning to use a bus in London with as much real time information as possible across the 20,000 bus-stops in the city. The implementation is what sets it apart though, as the information is pulled live from the Transport for London services which provides accurate, up to the minute data. 

The app will locate you via GPS, and then by selecting the relevant stop you can see live arrival/departure information, full route maps, and real time diversion and cancelation information. There's even a homescreen widget that you can set for your local stop and receive the same real-time information right there. 

Applications like this and Hailo (for taxis), are brilliant reasons why smartphones are fast becoming an everyday necessity. Hit the break for download links to the free 30-day lite version and a short promo video from the developers. 

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2 years ago

Official Formspring for Android application available now

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If you're one of the more than 28 million users of Formspring, you'll notice that there has been a lack of an official application from the social network. That all changes now as the official Formspring for Android application is available right now in the Android Market. 

It offers a pretty full experience, allowing you to ask and respond to questions from your contacts on the go. Sharing photos is also built in, and that pretty much covers everything Formspring is about. If there's room for one more social network on your Android device, hit the download links after the break. A word of warning though, it force closes at every time of asking on the Galaxy Nexus so you'll have to wait for an update to join in if you're using one.

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2 years ago

Pure Music goes live in the UK, offers streaming to your Android device for £4.99 a month

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Pure Music's Spotify challenging subscription service has been on the horizon now for a couple of months. The service has now gone live, offering users in the UK unlimited music streaming for a very reasonable £4.99 a month. There is also of course an Android application that goes along with the service.

That's half the cost of a Spotify premium subscription, which at first glance is incredibly tempting. There are a couple of differences between this and Spotify though, with the most significant being a lack of offline capabilities. If you don't have an unlimited data plan, the ability to stream only on the move is going to prove pretty limiting. Suddenly that extra £5 a month for Spotify doesn't seem so bad. You do get a 1 month free trial, so you at least get a chance to play with it and see what's what before committing your cash.

The Android application has been in the Market for a while now, as a portal to their other online media content, mainly radio stations. With your subscription enabled though the very same application -- it hasn't been updated -- unlocks the music catalogue for you to browse at your leisure. The catalogue seems pretty deep as well, coming up with a number of albums from various, less mainstream artists I listen to. 

The UI on the app is very pleasing to the eye, and pretty easy to navigate. One issue is the apparent lack of the ability to create playlists within the app. This I found particularly frustrating as it seems the only way to create and manage playlists is through The Lounge website on your computer. 

All in all Pure Music is a bit of a mixed bag. If you can live with the limitations of the Android app and don't need offline capabilities then this could well be the one for you. It's a good initial offering, and if you own any of the Pure range of internet radios then you're even better off. It's not quite Spotify, but it is half the price. Hit the break for the download links. 

More: Pure Music Lounge

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2 years ago

Android Central Editors' app picks for Jan 28, 2012

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You want apps, and the Android market has plenty of them except at times finding what you want or something new can be a bit challenging. Don't worry, we have got you covered, so let's hit the break and check out some of this weeks picks.

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2 years ago

Steam mobile app beta invites now rolling out; we go hands-on

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As we reported on Thursday, Valve Software recently took the wraps off the Steam mobile app for Android (and iOS), as part of a limited beta. Steam users could register their interest by downloading the app and entering their details, and over the past day or so, the first beta invites have started to roll out.

Steam is a big deal in the world of PC and Mac gaming, which makes the launch of an official mobile app a big deal for Android. As such, we decided to take this initial beta version of the Steam Android app for a spin. We've got more words and pictures for you after the break.

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2 years ago

DoubleTwist updated, includes integrated podcast catalogue, for a price

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DoubleTwist has long been a favourite for those who like to sync their music and podcasts between iTunes and Android. Todays update among other things brings an integrated podcast catalogue. The catch, this particular part of the app is a 'premium feature' with a premium price.

In UK money, unlocking the podcast feature in doubleTwist costs £4.99 (about $7.85). It does, however, feature the worlds greatest Android podcast in its listings by default -- Google Listen we're still looking at you. 

Aside from podcasts, the update brings improved performance and reliability, fixes to AirPlay and AirTwist playback issues, an expandable and collapsable now playing screen with easier access to your queue, and design and interface updates many of which are designed for Ice Cream Sandwich.

It's a welcome update to an already very good application. Hit the break for the download links.

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2 years ago

Latest Android Malware scare might be premature

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The folks at Symantec have tipped everyone off about a new piece of Android Malware, calling Android.Counterclank "a bot-like threat that can receive commands to carry out certain actions, as well as steal information from the device."  They note that starting one of the apps "infected" with the apperhand SDK package will show a second service running, and often places a search icon on the home screen.  They have verified this is in 13 applications on the Android Market and are calling it "the highest distribution of any malware identified so far this year."  Some reports on the internet claim it may have affected 5 million users.  That's 5,000,000 -- a huge and scary number. And it makes for a great headline.

But it looks like Symantec might have jumped the gun a bit.

Lookout, a competitor in the Android security field, says that the applications are not malware, and the apperhand package actually is a legitimate, but aggressive, advertisement component.  It's part of an advertising software development kit that's a modified version of the "ChoopCheec" platform” or “Plankton” SDK that was the focus of some privacy concerns in June 2011.  This newer version is cleaner, but it still has capabilities common to many ad networks. Writes Lookout:

  • It is capable of identifying the user uniquely by their IMEI number, for instance. But unlike some networks, this SDK forward-hashes the IMEI before sending to its server. They’re identifying your device, but they are obfuscating the raw data. (That's a good thing.)
  • The SDK has the capability to deliver “Push Notification” ads to the user. We’re not huge fans of push notifications, but we also don’t consider push notification advertising to be malware.
  • The SDK drops a search icon onto the desktop. Again, we consider bad form, though we don’t consider this a smoking gun for malware provided the content that is delivered is safe.  In this case, it is simply a link to a search engine.
  • The SDK also has the capability to push bookmarks to the browser.  In our opinion, this is crosses a line; although we do not believe this is cause to classify the SDK as malware.

We're not sure exactly how far is too far, but if the applications are using practices found in "many" other ad networks, we agree with Lookouts points listed here and have to call this one a non-issue when talking about malware.  On the issue of privacy and wanton sharing of user data, we're not loving it, but it's not malware.  

We're not security specialists, and we never claim to be.  We can tear applications apart and see what's hiding in there, but in-depth scanning and analysis is best left to the experts.  That being said, we are experts at catching bullshit, and this one reeks of it.  Nobody likes ads, but we can't just call them malware anytime we like.  They're a part of the ad-supported app model, and we should expect to see more than we like.  When they misbehave, call for someone's head, but not before.  

But that's not sensational.  Headlines like Computerworld's "Massive Android malware op may have infected 5 million users" cause controversy, and everyone loves a controversy.  Explaining that the 5 million mark is from adding the high end of the download counters, which allows for a 4 million-device margin of error, is conveniently forgotten.  And we'd like to think that if as many as 1 million devices on the low end had been infected, Google and the Android Market team would have said something.

The long and the short of it is, we're sleeping just fine tonight. Move along.

More: Symantec; Lookout

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