Secure-D from mobile tech company Upstream detected 1.69 million malware-infected Android devices in South Africa last year. Within many popular apps, Malware is lurking unseen and committing background fraud that targets advertisers, operators and consumers. The blocked transactions came from more than 18,000 different applications.

While the rogue apps behave normally on a smartphone’s screen, they surreptitiously click on links and adverts, sign users up to subscription services and consume vast amounts of data from prepaid contracts. Not only do advertisers pay app developers for the false clicks, the fraudulent apps are also used to steal personal data about the smartphone user without any visible sign of the fraudulent activity.

Specialist mobile security company Upstream works with a number of operators in South Africa to protect consumers and businesses from this type of fraud. The company’s Secure-D platform monitors app activity and blocks suspicious transactions. In an end of year report, Upstream revealed that it checked more than 50 million Android transactions in South Africa in 2019, identifying and blocking 86 percent of them as fraudulent.

Fraudsters recognize that smartphone users regularly watch and share videos, and they often hide malicious activity in video apps. In 2019, South Africa’s worst three offending Apps were all video apps:

1 – VidMate: 15 million blocked transactions

Downloaded worldwide more than 500 million times – Vidmate lets people download videos and songs from popular social media sites and entertainment services, allowing users to watch content offline. In the background, however, a hidden component generates fake clicks and purchases and downloads other suspicious apps without the user’s knowledge. Vidmate was by far the most dangerous app in South Africa in 2019, and is now only available on independent Apps stores, having been removed from Google Play.

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