Apple has famously claimed in commercials that you can’t get Windows viruses on Apple devices. The same apparently cannot be said for Android, as security researchers recently discovered a number of apps in the Google Play Store contained malware designed for Windows.
Palo Alto Networks discovered 132 instances of Android apps that were built with malicious files that could affect Windows devices—of which Androids notably are not.
The apps come from seven unrelated developers, though all of the app makers appeared to be based in Indonesia. The apps contained concealed iFrame tags that attempted to direct the device to several malicious websites. When visited, those sites would load interstitial advertisements and install more harmful software.
Unfortunately for the developers of the apps—and fortunately for everyone else—Android devices can’t execute Windows programs, including malware. That fact rendered the apps essentially harmless despite their insidious intent.
It’s also worth noting that several of the domains the apps attempted to draw devices to—brenz.pl and chura.pl, both registered with the country-code domain linked to Poland—were removed from the web by Polish security about four years ago.
It’s unclear whether the apps found to be contaminated by Windows viruses were a failed attempt at infecting phones or entirely incidental. Palo Alto Networks theorized the app developers aren’t attackers but actually the victims of an attack.
The security research firm noted a virus may have infected a server the developers were working from, leading to their own apps being infected.
“If a developer was infected with one of these viruses, their app’s HTML files could be infected. However, given that the developers may all be Indonesia, it’s also possible they may have downloaded an infected IDE from the same hosting website or they used the same infected online app generation platform,” the firm’s security researchers suggested in a blog post.
Android users can rest relatively easy regarding this potentially accidental malware attack, as the Windows-based viruses will have no effect on a device running the Android operating system.
However, it does raise the possibility of using unaffected devices as a carrier for viruses that can hit other computers. It is possible for intentional attacks to spread malware through unaffected devices to those that may actually be at risk from the virus. Given that chance, it’s best to avoid downloading apps from sketchy developers and make sure your devices are properly protected.