Windows Phone AVG antivirus app may be more dangerous than we thought

We broke the news the other night about AVG releasing an antivirus suite for Windows Phone. The app seemed harmless enough (and borderline useless to boot), only being able to manually scan photos and music files, while also offering "safe URL" web surfing.

Having a useless app is one thing, having an app that can potentially do some mischievous shenanigans is another. Its the latter that AVG is being accused of. Yes folks, AVG's app for Windows Phone may be spyware--that's irony.

Justin Angel broke down the app, did some analysis on it and found it is improperly using the Geo Location (GeoCoordinateWatcher) to track the phone and send all possible identifying information (phone make, model, your email address, location) onto AVG. For what purpose? Over at Centurion's Blog, he breaks it down to four possible uses:

  • Quality assurance
  • Info is sent to their Android app
  • Geo info is used for location based search
  • Collected data is used for marketing purposes

Whichever the reason, nonee of them benefit you, meaning that this app has gone from questionable value to not-recommended at all. Furthermore, Microsoft's Brandon Watson is taking a look at the app too to see if it violates any of the Marketplace guidelines. Stay tuned...

Source: Justin Angel; via Mobility Digest, Centurion's Blog; image credit @ailon

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Just like the software for Windows desktop, I'm afraid.....not surprised, really.
  • Makes me glad I gave up on AVG years ago.
  • AVG used to be a good free AV tool. I emphasize _used to_. Years ago.
  • it still is~
  • AVG became useless when they moved from v7 to v7.5 and tricked the free product users into buying the full product. A message came up stating that they were no longer supporting the old version, and the new version was required to remain protected. Clicking on the link only took you to the paid version.They have used this process for every version increase ever since.The new version are further bloat and make your computer slower. The actual scan engine has become less effective with each new version.
  • I'd be pretty ashamed to be Microsoft if it violated guidelines and still reached the Marketplace. They do have quality control testing in place, right?
  • AVG ruined my laptop last year. I tried to take the free version off the computer but could not. I couldn't install McAfee or Norton because AVG would block it. I had to reformat my hard drive. Loved it when it was free but it sucks now that they charge. Anyone out there know antivirus suite that's free? My Norton just expired and i haven't had any security the last few days. I'll renew Norton if i can't find a good reputible free one.
  • Try avast! (exclamation point is in the name). It's 100% free and 100% unlocked/full-featured. McAfee is bad. Had a boss who lost everything because of McAfee. It found a virus and then infected every infect-able file it scanned. Ended up with thousands of files infected with one virus. Norton is a scam. Bloated and costly. avast! is more reliable, free, and not as bloated.
  • As Virtuous Lumox stated, Avast! is good. Also check out Microsoft Security Essentials. It is 100% free and full featured as well.
  • I would back up rightisray, get Microsoft Security Essentials. I haven't had an anti-virus program (other than MSE) on my computers for years. I hardly ever get viruses and when I do, it seems that the AV software proved to be worthless anyways and I had to manually remove it. Browsing with Chrome too helps, as it's good at warning about malicious sites.
  • that's because Google chrome is a virus itself,since I uninstalled it and switched to IE9 my computer has been much faster.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials is the best free anti-virus IMO.
  • +1 I'll never use another bloatware antivirus program again. MSE is awesome.
  • +1 from me as well. MSE just works, and without dragging the rest of your system down with it. I've been using it for years and it still amazes me that there are people who don't know that it exists.
  • I used to use AVG many years ago. I stopped the moment they started bundling their own spyware in the free version. This does not surprise me one bit. Now I use avast! and love it. As for my Trophy, I only go to trusted sites I frequent often on my desktop and I never browse.
  • Why would you want an antivirus program on a phone? It does absolutely nothing, except maybe slow your phone down.These companies should be ashamed for using a irrational fear as a marketing tactic.
  • Hopefully it gets booted from the Marketplace. I didn't see a use for it before reading this post and now there seems to be less than zero reasons to use it. I currently run AVG at home but I like the recommendations I've seen in comments.
  • Switch to Microsoft Security Essentials as soon as you can, a truly install and forget antivirus - and it works!
  • i hope they revoke their developer credientials and pull the app, the platform isn't android and thus doesn't need any AV protection.the only danger is from sideloaded apps, and if you know how to do that and don't pay attention to what you're doing, well, that's your fault really.and yes, +1000 for MSE, best AV software i've ever used.
  • Sorry adiliyo, I'm not trying to pick a fight, but if the ONLY danger of virus with WP is side loaded apps, then how and why is an application like this in The Marketplace in the firs place? I think it is very foolish to consider The MarketPlace to be a "trusted" site. I think that has been proven many times, before this app even.
  • I'm pretty sure the Marketplace doesn't certify apps for stated functionality, beyond that they don't crash, follow the memory usage guidelines, etc. I could write an app called "Virus Scanner", have it toss up a progress bar for a couple of seconds, and then change to an "All clear!" message and I bet it would get accepted. Thus MarketPlace publishing of an "anti virus" app doesn't imply that anti virus apps are needed or necessary or even useful on WP7.Oddly enough, such an app as I suggested would be even more useful than this virus scanner, since both do nothing of value but at least my suggestion does not send all of your information to AVG when it's done doing nothing.
  • I don't trust AVG and I'm waiting for the "planted" Window Phone virus story to come any day now.
  • I expect this from AVG... And I also expected this from the app, with no virus or problems found/reported at all, why do we need a scanner that tries to solve a problem we dont have?For anyone worried about there PC, its not a virus scanner but its the best preventative program ive found - Spybot. Been using it for years and have not regretted it one bit.
  • My understanding of the data layout and access on WP7... an app can't see anything outside of its one data. So it would be impossible for any app to scan any other app...Which raises another question; why do a lot of games that have nothing to do with GPS and maps need access to our geo-location data. Microsoft needs to do a much better job of screening apps.Any app requesting GPS data should have to justify that need before it is released.I would rather have five good legit apps than 200 useless spyware apps.
  • those would be games that use ad services that use localization to target ads more relevant to where you live. in order to do that, it needs to consume geolocation
  • Funny really. or just how things turn out in the PC world if you have a windows machine you have to worry about virus. and having anti virus software running. But if you have a Mac, that problem is so prevalent. now in the Mobile world if you have an ios or android you need it but if you have a windows device the problem isn't so prevalent........ win another round for WP7.
  • Wait... Brandon Watson is back at MS? His Twitter says Datalogix