Matrix fans probably are familiar with Agent Smith, and the role he played in the Matrix. Neo was able to beat Agent Smith in the movies, but a malware attacked dubbed ‘Agent Smith’ has infected over 25 million Android-based devices in the real world. The vast majority of the infected devices are in India and surround countries, but an estimated 300,000 are in the US.

Agent Smith
Outbreak map of the Agent Smith malware. Source: Independent

How Does This Attack Work?

A security firm, Check Point, discovered the malware in a third-party app store, 9Apps, but has also found it in the Google Play store. “The malware attacks user-installed applications silently, making it challenging for common Android users to combat such threats on their own,” said Jonathan Shimonovich, head of mobile threat detection research at Check Point said in a statement.

Agent Smith will scan the device for installed apps. It will then create a copy of them and replace the legitimate app. At this point, the malware will start bombarding the user with advertisements. While constant ads are annoying, the real concern is it could be used to steal bank and credit card information. Check Point found 11 apps in the Play Store that had software similar to the infected apps in the 9App store. Google has since removed those apps from the Play Store.

Prevention

If you feel like you are getting a lot of advertisements from apps you use regularly, it might not necessarily be related to Agent Smith. Third-party apps may increase ads to increase their revenue. We recommend only downloading applications from official App Stores, as they have a more thorough vetting process. While it’s not perfect, it will be hard for malware to reach the end-user. Another useful tool is having some form of protection on your device. Malwarebytes, BitDefender, and other companies offer some for your mobile devices.

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