Google has issued a warning to users of Android TV OS devices to be aware that some TV boxes are not what they appear, certainly when it comes to the security implications for their users.
Is that Android TV Play Protect certified?
In an official Google Android TV OS support forum posting, a Google employee confirms that the company has “recently received questions regarding TV boxes that are built with Android Open Source Project and are being marketed to appear as Android TV OS devices.”
However, as we all know, appearances can be deceptive. Even though, the warning continues, these may have Google apps and even the Play Store installed, that doesn’t mean these are licensed by Google. Which means, it continues, “these devices are not Play Protect certified.”
What is Play Protect certified and why do you need it?
Why is this a big deal, and why should you take heed of this Google warning as an Android TV OS user? Because being Play Protect certified means a device has built-in malware protection from Google to help keep your apps and data safe from malicious actors. “We work with our partners to ensure Android TV OS devices adhere to stringent security and privacy policies and undergo extensive testing to ensure quality and user safety,” the Google posting explains.
Cheap Android TV boxes come pre-installed with click-fraud malware
In related news, it has also been reported that some cheap, and “highly popular” Android TV devices being sold online complete with pre-installed malware “capable of launching coordinated cyberattacks.”
Two security researchers, independent of each other, found Android TV devices to be using malware to connect to command and control servers in order to ultimately deliver a ‘clickbot’ payload. This, the report explains, is where the perpetrators earn revenue from clicking on adverts in the background, ad-click fraud in other words, without the user knowing. The compromised Android TV device joins up with others, without user knowledge, to become part of a botnet that can run into thousands of TV boxes, all participating in that ad-click fraud.
Awareness of the security and privacy risks is paramount
“Rather than delivering extra channels, some of these boxes are delivering malware on demand,” Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity advisor at NordVPN, says. “As well as harvesting users’ personal data this software, once enabled, means the box can also connect with a wider network of bots and be used by cybercriminals to gain revenue by mining cryptocurrency or clicking on ads,” Warmenhoven continues.
Awareness is the key, Warmenhoven concludes: “It is crucial that people are aware of the dangers involved when buying these boxes from untrustworthy sources. More than half of people have an internet-connected TV and these boxes and other cable alternatives are only going to grow in popularity.”