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25 May 12 6 Essential Desktop Apps to Make Your Android Phone Device a Work or Play …

6 Essential Desktop Apps to Make Your Android Phone Device a Work or Play PowerhouseThe power of an Android phone or tablet already makes a desktop PC, or even a laptop, seem a little old-fashioned–but you can enhance your smartphone or tablet even more. Here are six applications that allow you to use your desktop computer to get more functionality, and more fun, from your Android device.


6 Essential Desktop Apps for Managing Android DevicesYou can complain all you want about the closed nature of Apple’s software, but you can’t deny that the marriage of iTunes and iOS is as cohesive as it gets. This desktop-mobile connection is missing from the Android experience–until you install DoubleTwist. Once you install this free desktop application, it automatically finds the music, photos, and videos you have stored on your computer (yes, even those in your existing iTunes library) and organizes them for you, letting you browse your collection by artist, album, playlist, and more in its tidy interface. You can sync these multimedia files to and from your Android device via USB.

A companion mobile app lets you play back multimedia files on your Android device; upgrading to the AirSync app ($5) adds wireless syncing.


6 Essential Desktop Apps for Managing Android DevicesDoubleTwist offers a complete package if you’re looking to sync multimedia files between your phone and your desktop. But if you’d like to sync contacts and more, MobileGo is the desktop app for you. It runs on Windows PCs only and costs $40 for the full version, which is a bit much when you consider that both iTunes and DoubleTwist are free. (The free demo version of MobileGo allows basic syncing between your Android device and your Windows PC.)

Shelling out those (relatively) big bucks for the full version adds some useful features, such as the ability to sync Outlook contacts to your phone, plus the ability to convert audio and video files into Android-supported formats before transferring them to your mobile device. If you have a collection of multimedia files amassed from various sources, this conversion feature will soon prove indispensable when you wish to make those files mobile-friendly.

B-Folders 3

B-Folders 3 is something of an all-in-one tool for businesspeople looking to keep data secure, both on and off their Android devices. It’s a password manager, a contact manager, a task manager, and a bookmark manager. But that’s not all: B-Folders also serves as a journal and a notepad, and it uses a treelike folder structure designed to make organizing any kind of data easy.

The assortment of features is just one half of B-Folders’ appeal; the other is its security. B-Folders uses a “government-grade 256-bit AES cipher.” The $30 desktop version runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs, while the free Android version works on devices running version 1.6 or higher of the mobile OS.

B-Folders lets you share information securely between multiple computers and mobile devices, but the company does not rely on cloud services to do so; instead, it uses a peer-to-peer format that automatically detects and syncs any changes.


6 Essential Desktop Apps for Managing Android DevicesAirDroid is actually a mobile app, not a desktop program. But once you install AirDroid on your Android phone, your desktop is all you need. This app allows you to take complete control of your Android device via your computer’s Web browser. When you launch the app on your phone, it gives you a link and passcode that you enter on your computer in order to complete the connection.

This was the hardest part of using the app for me: When I tested it with Internet Explorer, my connection kept terminating abruptly. When I switched my browser to Google Chrome, though, I had no problems. Once the connection is established, you can use AirDroid’s slick Web interface to transfer files between your computer and phone; install, uninstall, or back up your collection of Android apps; share clipboard text between your computer and phone; organize contacts; check and delete call logs; upload and download ringtones; upload, download, and play music; and receive, send, forward, or delete SMS messages.

And, with a QuickTime plug-in installed, you can even play back videos that you recorded on your Android device. Let’s face it: If only you could you use AirDroid to make voice calls, you might never to go back to using that 4-inch phone screen again.

Android Notifier

6 Essential Desktop Apps for Managing Android DevicesIf you’re trying to get work done on your computer, your phone can be a big distraction. The more you glance at it to see whether you have any new messages or any missed calls, the less you get done. Android Notifier to the rescue: This mobile-desktop app combination lets you stay focused on your computer without missing important notifications from your Android phone.

To use it, you install the mobile component on your phone (you’ll find it in Google Play as “Remote Notifier for Android”) and put the desktop version on your Mac, Linux, or Windows PC. On your phone, you control the settings, deciding which events you’d like to see notifications for. Options include phone ringing, SMS, MMS, battery status, voicemail, and notifications from third-party apps. You also indicate whether you’d like your notifications to be encrypted, and whether to send them via IP/Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Then, you put that phone away and get to work.

When an event occurs on your phone, Android Notifier displays a subtle pop-up from your computer’s system tray. It shows you the contact name and the number of incoming calls and the text of incoming messages, allowing you to decide whether the item is important enough to warrant interrupting your work.

Lookout Mobile Security

6 Essential Desktop Apps for Managing Android DevicesOkay, Lookout Mobile Security is more of a mobile app than a desktop program. But once you install this free security tool on your Android device (and you should, as it’s one of the best-rated Android security apps), be sure to fire up your desktop browser and log in with your free Lookout account. Then, you can use your Web browser to back up your contacts and, perhaps more important, track and locate your phone or tablet if it’s ever lost or stolen.

In my casual tests, its location tracking was impressively accurate: It located my phone to within a yard of the device’s actual hiding spot. Upgrading to a premium account ($30 per year) adds other remote security features, including the ability to back up pictures and call history, as well as a remote locking and wiping function that can keep your phone’s sensitive data safe from prying eyes.

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24 May 12 Android Malware Spikes in 2012

Android malware SW

According to McAfee the number of malicious Android apps surged from the hundreds to the thousands in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period last year.

In “McAfee Threats Report: First Quarter 2012″ the company reported that the number of mobile threats on Android reached 7,000 samples, while Symbian, Java ME (mobile edition), and “others” combined reached only 1,000.

Adam Wosotowsky, messaging data architect at McAfee Labs, attributed at least half of the newly detected malware to McAfee’s better detection methods, such as identifying more third party app stores and improving its scanning technology. Even taking this into consideration, he estimates Android malware has “definitely more than doubled” since the same time last year. 

Not the “Year of Android Malware” Yet…
The figures are alarming, but it’s still fairly easy to keep your Android devices clean of malware. For starters, steer clear of third-party app stores (outside Google Play or Amazon App Store for Android). Unlike in the PC environment where worms can spread without any user involvement, mobile infections still rely on users installing malicious apps. Most Android malware still originates from and targets users in China and Russia, and gets distributed through non-official app stores.

However, attackers are becoming more sophisticated in their methods. In early May, Lookout Mobile Security reported a primitive sort of drive-by download, where attackers used compromised websites to trick Android users into installing the “NotCompatible” Trojan. When a user visited a compromised website, the malicious app would automatically begin downloading. However a user would still be prompted to install the app before it could exploit anything. 

McAfee also found “significant amounts” of new adware, which even security-conscious Android owners can catch from official app stores. 

Mobile adware refers to code within ad networks that can access more data perform more functions on your device than you’re probably aware of. For example in January, vendors Symantec and Lookout squabbled over the the shade of grey of one particularly aggressive ad network being used to monetize free Android apps. Symantec initially identified it as malware called “Android.Counterclank,” but hours later, Lookout Mobile Security said the SDK in question was really an aggressive ad network called “Apperhand” that placed a search icon on your mobile desktop without your permission, and pushed ads through the notice bar. 

Google Play doesn’t block adware (after all it runs one of the most ubiquitous ad networks, AdMob) which can be a bigger problem for Android owners.

Fortunately, many vendors now offer ad network detectors that explain what the ad network dropped in your Angry Birds Lite can do. Check out Lookout Ad Network Detector or TrustGo Ad Detector for such tools. 

As far as mobile security suites go, Lookout for Android is PCMag’s Editors’ Choice for Android security, but other high-performing malware detectors include F-Secure Mobile Security 7.6 and McAfee Mobile Security 2.0. All have free versions that include a quick malware scan.

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14 May 12 Android Trojan Mimics PC Drive-by Malware Attack

Researchers have noticed one of the first examples of Android “drive-by” malware from an ordinary website, a dangerous type of automatic attack more commonly used to infect Windows PCs.

Discovered by security company Lookout Mobile Security on a number of webistes, the decidedly odd “NotCompatible” Trojan is distributed using a web page containing a hidden iFrame.

Any Android browser visiting an affected page (the attack ignores PC browsers) will automatically start downloading the malware without the user being aware that this has happened. (See also “5 Free Android Security Apps: Keep Your Smartphone Safe.”)

This isn’t quite a PC drive-by attack because the user still needs to install the app, at which point it relies on the user having ticked the “Unknown Sources” box (in most cases this box would be unticked) that allows non-market apps to be installed.

The rough equivalent of this layer on a Vista or Windows 7 PC would be the User Access Control (UAC) which is usually circumvented using social engineering or by misrepresenting the nature of the application.

NotCompatible eschews such tricks beyond simply claiming to be a security update. It’s not sophisticated but it might fool some users, some of the time.

Malware’s Mission Unclear

The purpose of the infection is a bit of a mystery.

“This specific sample, while relatively well constructed, does not appear to go to great lengths to hide its intended purpose: it can be used to access private networks,” said Lookout’s blog.

“This feature in itself could be significant for system IT administrators: a device infected with NotCompatible could potentially be used to gain access to normally protected information or systems, such as those maintained by enterprise or government.”

The affected sites appeared to have low volumes of traffic but the company believed the exploit iFrame was being served on other sites it had yet to identify, it said.

The warning is stark; mobile malware creators are experimenting with what is possible for this class of malware and have found a way to get mobile malware on to devices without them having to visit third-party app sites as has been the case up to now.

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06 May 12 NotCompatible Android Trojan; Spotify for iPad; Target Pulling Amazon Kindle

Security was top of mind on Wednesday, as Lookout Mobile Security reported that there are now hacked websites targeting Android devices with a new Android Trojan called NotCompatible, an attack vector previously only used to infect PCs with malware.

Lookout called the development “the first time hacked websites are being used to specifically target mobile devices.” Malware threats to Android phones in the past have largely come via apps.

In other news, just 5 percent of Android devices are running the latest version of the mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, according to stats released this week by Google.

Meanwhile, the streaming music service Spotify finally launched an iPad app. The Spotify for iPad app, which is now available in the App Store, lets users of Apple’s coveted tablet browse and play tracks from Spotify’s catalog of 17 million songs. iPad owners can enjoy the app for free during a 30-day trial, but will need to shell out $9.99 a month for a Spotify premium subscription to continue using it after the trial period.

And, if you’re in the market for a new Amazon Kindle, then don’t head to Target. The popular retailer confirmed yesterday that it will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in the coming weeks. Kindle devices have already been pulled from the Target website. Searches for “Amazon Kindle” just bring up Kindle covers.

Also topping tech headlines on Wednesday:

For more from Angela, follow her on Twitter @amoscaritolo.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

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04 May 12 Android Hit By Drive-By Malware

New drive-by malware that attacks Android users visiting compromised websites has been discovered by Reddit users georgiabiker.

Sites distributing the malware have themselves been compromised and injected with malicious code called Troj/Iframe-HX. The malicious code examines the User Agent string sent by the browser to see if it contains the string “Android” and if it does a malicious Android package called Update.apk is sent to the browser.

Hacked websites are commonly used to infect PCs with malware, but this is the first example of Android users being targeted by this technique.

The good news about this malware is that is it only downloaded automatically, and relies on the user to do the job of installing it. For this to work the “Unknown sources” setting enabled (a feature commonly referred to as “sideloading”).

According to analysis carried out by Lookout Mobile Security, the malware is designed to act as a proxy. Its purpose is thought to be to steal data from devices connected to corporate networks and VPNs as the malware only requests network permissions. This could allow the malware to compromise system maintained by enterprise and government agencies.

Unlike most examples of Android malware, this piece of malware doesn’t seem to collect contact details, SMSs, email and other personal details.

The best way to protect yourself from Android malware is to not install unknown packages on your device that have been downloaded from unknown websites.

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03 May 12 NotCompatible Android Trojan: What You Need to Know

NotCompatible Android Trojan: What You Need to KnowAndroid smartphone users should be on the lookout for hacked websites that automatically download an app onto your phone in an attempt to trick you into installing malicious code. For what may be the first time ever, analysts at Lookout Mobile Security are warning of a so-called drive-by download attack specifically targeted at Android devices. The attack uses infected websites to try to install a Trojan horse called NotCompatible onto your phone. If installed, the Android malware could let hackers use the phone as an intermediary access point, or proxy, to break into private computer networks. There is also some speculation that NotCompatible could add your phone to a botnet.

[RELATED: Keep Malware Off Your Android Phone: 5 Quick Tips]

However, while NotCompatible sounds scary, it is not a threat if you use common sense and never install anything on your phone that you don’t trust or don’t remember downloading. Here’s what Android users need to know about NotCompatible.

How was NotCompatible discovered?

The Trojan first surfaced when a Reddit user named “georgiabiker” discovered NotCompatible by chance and brought the malware to the Reddit community’s attention. Reddit is a social news site and message board.

Who’s at Risk?

NotCompatible can only infect people who have enabled sideloading — the ability to download apps from unofficial sources — for their device, according to Lookout. Sideloading is enabled on your phone by going to SettingsApplications and then tapping the “Unknown Sources” check box.

Keep in mind that even if you have sideloading enabled, getting infected still requires explicit user action.

OK, So How Do I Get Infected?

NotCompatible Android Trojan: What You Need to KnowCourtesy of Reddit user georgiabikerAny Android user arriving at an infected site using the phone’s browser will automatically download a file called “Update.apk.”

NotCompatible Android Trojan: What You Need to KnowCourtesy of Reddit user georgiabikerIf you have sideloading enabled, a screen will pop-up asking you to install an update named com.Security.Update or something similar. Any user who then installs the application will get infected.

If you are not sideloading apps, you will not be able to install the Trojan, Lookout says.

What Does It Do to My Phone?

It’s not immediately clear whether there’s any long-term effect on your phone or your device’s content, but so far Lookout says the only thing that will happen is your phone could be used as a proxy by a third-party.

How Widespread is the Trojan?

Lookout is not offering any specific numbers, but the company says it has found the malware on “numerous” websites embedded in an iframe — a segment of a browser window that can display content from a third-party. Lookout expects NotCompatible’s overall impact to be low.

Hacked sites unknowingly acting as a vehicle for NotCompatible appear to be typically low traffic websites for local businesses such as country clubs, computer repair, and pest exterminators.

What If I’m Infected?

Lookout has not provided any information on what users can do if they are infected with NotCompatible so it’s not clear whether installing Lookout’s antivirus software would remove the malicious software.

Even though this malware is specifically targeted for Android devices, as long as you remain attentive when authorizing new apps and watch out for unauthorized downloads, your device should be fine.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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