Home>What Are Rogue Applications and How Can You Identify Them?

What Are Rogue Applications and How Can You Identify Them?

By |2019-11-21T10:12:00-07:00November 21st, 2019|

Cybersecurity is typically a top concern for most companies, especially those dealing with sensitive data. From banks to health networks to service providers, keeping your customers’ information safe is essential to earning their trust. There are many different types of potential threats, but one of the most deceptive types is the rogue application. Whether it infects your computer or phone, a rogue app has the potential to do damage and breach your security.

While they can be difficult to recognize — especially if the hacker who created an app did a particularly thorough job — there are ways you can identify a rogue app before and after downloading. If you already downloaded the malware, you can take steps to get rid of it. This guide will take you through some of the best methods of identifying and deleting suspicious rogue applications before they do any damage.

Table of Contents

What Is a Rogue Application?

One of the latest threats to cybersecurity, rogue applications are growing in number. Rogue apps are fraudulent versions of credible apps made to look like the original versions. Cybercriminals create the apps to gather sensitive information about the users, who believe they’re inputting data into reliable software from a brand they already trust. They’re similar to phishing emails, but can be more deceptive, as they mimic the look and feel of existing applications.

Rogue apps also benefit from the motivation of convenience. For example, as programs become more secure and accessible, many people choose to conduct their banking with mobile apps. They store your information to make accessing your bank details faster and easier. In the U.S. alone in a given week, approximately three in 10 adults make all their purchases with an alternative to cash, whether they use a card, app or online banking.

Rogue applications can take on the format and design of popular banking sites to appear credible. But rather than direct the user to their accounts, they take their information and use it to the app creators’ advantage.

Why Should You Care About Rogue Apps?

While it may seem easy to point out the difference between rogue apps and reliable ones, they often make spotting the differences difficult. They’ll use a similar layout to the original app, so even if you’ve seen it before, you might not notice. Hackers can also take the official logo, colors and fonts and use them to make the app look as close to the branding as possible. Being able to spot a rogue app may save you or your customers from giving away valuable information.

Downloading rogue apps can result in several forms of trouble for your business, including:

  • Brand impersonation: There are two main ways brand impersonation can negatively impact your business. For one, you could be accessing an application that’s impersonating a trusted brand. If you don’t catch that it’s a rogue early enough, you could compromise your company by giving out information. Another way it can impact you is if a rogue app is impersonating your business and collecting your customers’ data. In this case, it compromises your clients and damages your reputation. If a rogue can successfully imitate your legitimate app, it may provide insight into branding mistakes to avoid in the future.
  • Financial loss: Many companies and individuals conduct banking and financial transactions through various apps. Whether you’re putting in customer credit card information, site passwords or any other type of data, cybercriminals can collect that data and use it to access accounts. The application could also contain ransomware, where the hacker holds information hostage while demanding money.
  • Data theft: With rogue apps, cybercriminals can collect your or your customers’ sensitive information. They can then sell the data to make a profit. Even account logins are valuable to those looking to commit identity theft.

Rogue apps aren’t limited to impersonating specific brands, either. They can take the deceptive form of an independent company. One type of rogue application that’s a common hacking scam is fake antivirus software. The rogue presents itself as a trustworthy download, claiming it’ll help you identify and get rid of other fraudulent or harmful software. In reality, it will infect your device and put your sensitive data at risk.

With a defense in place, you may be able to avoid these issues before they occur, saving you and your customers time and money.

The Internal Development of Rogue Apps

In many cases, rogue software comes from external hackers looking to collect information. However, you may also experience the internal development of rogue applications. Your business teams can create these apps without knowing they’re potentially exposing your company’s private data.

Primarily, internal development occurs when your employees create an app for business purposes without consulting the IT department. When your IT department doesn’t create the app or doesn’t know of its existence, they can’t ensure it’s security. To prevent or address internally developed rogue apps, sit with your business and IT teams and talk about the risks they present. As long as your employees consult the IT team for all app projects, your company can strengthen its security.

How to Identify Rogue Applications

One of the best defenses you have against the risks of rogue applications is being able to identify them. Whether you spot them before downloading or catch them after, recognizing the red flags may be able to save your business money or block a data breach. It’s essential to know how to prevent rogue security software and other threatening applications from putting your data at risk.

While they can be intentionally challenging to spot, you can identify rogue applications in several ways:

  • Download site: If an app is on an unreliable download site, it may not be trustworthy. Links to download apps from websites or emails are typically risky, but you can easily search for it on your own. Check to see if a legitimate site offers the app, such as Google Play or the iOS App Store. Also, if an app installation failed, keep an eye out for any signs of suspicious activity, as the download may still have put malware on your device.
  • Terms and conditions: No one enjoys digging through the legal jargon of an application’s terms and conditions pages. But it can give you an insight as to whether or not an app is legitimate. Even if they seem well written, check deeper for highlights about charges or other breaches of security.
  • Permissions: When you download a new application and open it for the first time, many prompt the user to allow the software to access other parts of the phone. You might see a pop-up that asks to access hardware, such as your microphone or camera, or an application that stores information, such as your photos or contacts. If you give permissions to a rogue app, it could compromise your security. One way to tell an app might be a rogue is if it asks to access an app that it shouldn’t need. Unless they’re a form of social media or editing software, most apps should have no reason to read your contacts or photos.
  • Ratings and creator: Applications housed on legitimate download sites will have accompanying ratings and reviews by previous and current users. These individuals have had experience with the app and may provide insight as to whether or not it’s trustworthy. If you see consistently low ratings or reviews that include other red flags, it may be a rogue app. The application details are also useful for determining the origin and validating the program’s authenticity. There should be a creator or development team listed. If you’re downloading a banking app or other software that processes sensitive information, make sure the creator matches. For example, if you’re accessing the mobile app for a particular bank, check to see that the same company created it.
  • Phone bill: Your phone bill may be able to provide insight into any suspicious activity brought on by rogue apps. Check your statement multiple times each month if you suspect you’ve downloaded a rogue app. If you see anything out of the ordinary, you can call your provider to get more details.

3 Steps for Uninstalling Rogue Apps

Once you’ve identified rogue apps on your device, the next step is to uninstall them safely. Even if you suspect you have a rogue but aren’t sure which app is causing the issues, the uninstall process may help you isolate the threat.

Here are several helpful steps to uninstalling rogue applications and malware:

1. Turn On Safe Mode

If you’re trying to clean suspicious apps off of your phone, one measure you should take before uninstalling is turning on safe mode. The function reboots your phone but revokes the ability to run third-party applications, force quitting them so they can’t run in the background. This step is essential for stopping a rogue app from running. There are many you can’t close manually, and even if you do, they continue to operate on their own.

When you reboot in safe mode, you can still use any of the original applications that came pre-downloaded on the phone. For iPhone owners, it also allows you to access the iOS to troubleshoot potential issues. To check to see if your phone’s problems stem from a rogue, you can turn on safe mode and wait. If the problems cease during this period, it’s safe to assume they’re software-based.

On an Android device, you can turn on safe mode by pressing and holding the power button. Once the next prompt pops up, tap and hold the “power off” selection, then, when the “reboot to safe mode” option appears, tap again or “OK” to have the phone restart with safe mode activated. Usually, when the device boots back up, you’ll see “safe mode” on the bottom left corner of the screen.

The process with an iPhone or iPad is similar in concept but uses different buttons. To turn on iOS’s version of safe mode, begin by holding down the power and home buttons, as you would to power off the device. Once the screen goes black, release the home button, but continue holding the power button. When the Apple logo appears, hold down the volume up button until the device powers back on.

Luckily, malware and rogue apps on an iPhone or other Apple product is a rarity, so you may never need to troubleshoot for app removal.

2. Uninstall Problematic Applications

Once your device is in safe mode, you can begin to uninstall the rogue apps without interference from the malware. On a phone or tablet that runs Android, open the settings menu and select “apps” or “applications.” You’ll see all the potential rogue apps in the “downloaded” section. Look through the list thoroughly and select any apps you aren’t familiar with or that don’t appear to be legitimate. Select each app you wish to delete, then tap “uninstall” to remove it.

If the “uninstall” selection is gray and you can’t tap it, the app probably has administrator rights. You have to deactivate its admin function before deleting it from the device. To do so, go back to the main settings menu, select “security,” then “device administrator.” The rogue apps should come up in a list with a toggle button beside each. Turn their administrator status off, and then you can uninstall.

3. Reboot Normally

After you’ve deleted the suspicious applications, you can turn off safe mode. All you have to do is reboot the device regularly, and it will automatically turn the setting off. If the problem persists, you may have to return to safe mode and dig deeper. Keep an eye out for any recurring issues in the following days to make sure you’ve removed the malware entirely.

What Is Rogue App Monitoring?

While being able to detect and uninstall rogue apps is essential, you can also take preventative measures before running into malware issues. With a reliable anti-malware program, you can block threats before they become security risks. But there are also ways to ensure your customers don’t download rogue apps meant to impersonate your company.

Rogue app monitoring provides corrective action at the app store download level. It identifies potential threats in applications across hundreds of download sites and keeps tabs on them to find any compromising malware. A monitoring system recognizes malware, possible software tampering and unauthorized impersonations of your brand. By consistently surveying new and updated apps, the program helps keep your customers’ information safe and your brand trustworthy.

Maintaining Mobile App Security With BlackStratus

Reliable cybersecurity systems are an essential part of any business. With so many potential risks involved in malware and rogue applications, it’s crucial to put preventative measures in place for your employees and customers. With CYBERShark Powered by BlackStratus, you can ensure your business is safe from targeted attacks and malware.

We offer a variety of security solutions that integrate well with any business. Our industry-leading products and services will give you peace of mind and let customers know they can trust your company with sensitive information. At BlackStratus, we’re dedicated to providing your team with a powerful and flexible solution and simplifying your security at an affordable rate.

To get started strengthening your security with CYBERShark, request a free demo or contact us for more information.

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Sources:
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Rich Murphy