A new report from Google is warning Android users about a particularly malicious spyware that can record audio from your device without your knowledge.
The threat — which was detected and fortunately patched by the company's Threat Analysis Group — is called PREDATOR and it's a type of spyware you definitely do not want on your device.
Here's how to know whether your particularly device is at risk and a few tips for keeping yourself safe online.
PREDATOR Spyware Infecting Android Phones
Announced in a blog post from Google's Threat Analysis Group, the security group found that Android phones are being specifically targeted for a spyware called PREDATOR, which is particularly powerful and unsettling, to boot.
The PREDATOR spyware can record audio on your device, allowing the malicious actor to hear virtually anything said near your smartphone. The spyware has most notably been used on journalists, for obvious and equally unsettling reasons.
As for how it gets on your device, a simple email campaign has allowed the spyware to access enough Android phones to warrant a warning from Google itself. Once you click on the mysterious, shortened URL — which by the way you should never do — the spyware is loaded on to your device and there's nothing you can do about it.
The attacks appear to be located in just a few countries, including Egypt, Armenia, Greece, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Serbia, Spain, and Indonesia. The reasoning for the attacks has not been revealed, but given the questionable nature of the technology, it's safe to say nothing good will come of it.
How to Protect Yourself Online
PREDATOR is a notably robust piece of spyware, but if you aren't in any of the countries listed above, you should be fine. Even better, if you live in the United States, spyware like this — even the “legitimate” kinds from companies like NSO Group — is generally banned.
However, there are plenty of other cyber threats out in the world that put you and your personal data at risk and protecting yourself isn't nearly as hard as it sounds. In fact, with the right tips and tools, you could avoid the majority of cyber threats before you wake up in the morning.
For one, be vigilant and don't click on random links. In most cases, these phishing emails are riddled with spelling errors, errant punctuation, and slight inconsistences with the site they're trying to replicate. As long as you keep your eye out for these kinds of errors, you should be able to keep email scammers at arm's length.
Additionally, tools like password managers and VPNs make your overall online activity more secure, keeping your credentials, location data, and browsing history private from outside sources. Finally, antivirus software is a good investment, particularly if you're worried about what your device might attract, be it malicious spyware or just too many pop-up ads.