Is Bluestacks Safe for PCs or Can Android Malware Spread? | #itsecurity | #infosec


Bluestacks is an Android emulator available for both Windows and macOS. The software, which was launched in 2009, is free to download, and is compatible with most modern PCs.

For anyone having security concerns, the following is an elaborate coverage of its safety, features, and a look into why millions of people use it.

Is Bluestacks a Virus?

Bluestacks is not a virus, but instead an Android emulator. There are many myths out there about the application, but many of them brought are a result of misconceptions.

Any unofficial versions not downloaded from Bluestacks.com are likely to be bundled with malicious code that includes keyloggers, cryptojackers, spyware, and other types of malware. Therefore, you should avoid these.

Flagged as Malware During Installation

When installing Bluestacks, some antivirus suites might flag the installation as malware. If the Bluestacks software has been downloaded directly from Bluestacks.com, the prompt is most likely a false-positive.

If the above happens, you can proceed with the installation by first disabling real-time protection on the antivirus or Windows Defender and then continuing with the installation. Don’t forget to re-enable real-time protection afterward.

Some of the reasons why some antivirus applications categorize the Bluestacks emulator as malware is because it writes files in the Windows folder, edits the registry, and has some anomalous dll files that support virtualization.

Legitimate virtualization applications such as Bluestacks, however, have to rely on these elements for them to work.

How Bluestacks Safeguards the Application

The Bluestacks team has a collective of safeguards to make sure that the platform is secure. Below is an outline of some of them.

1. Bluestacks Regularly Releases Patches for Vulnerabilities

To enhance security, the Bluestacks team regularly releases patches that help counter vulnerabilities in the software. Among the most notable releases is the CVE-2020-24367 vulnerability fix.

Released a few months ago, it patched a bug in the system that allowed low-privilege system users to arbitrarily execute code using administrator privileges, thereby making the application prone to hack attacks.

Early versions of Bluestacks 4 are still vulnerable to the exploit, and so users are advised to download the latest software to get a patched version.

In another major discovery, versions earlier than v4.90.0.1046 were found to have a vulnerability that allowed hackers to not only execute code remotely but also steal stored backup data. This was achieved through DNS Rebinding.

It’s good to know that the latest versions have these loopholes sealed. If you are an avid Bluestacks user, you can check out the latest vulnerabilities and patches on this page.

2. Bluestacks Doesn’t Sell Your Information

Bluestacks explicitly states in its terms and conditions that it collects unidentifiable user information in order to enhance its product delivery. The company reiterates that it does not forward private information, such as emails, to third parties.

It does, however, caution that third-party applications such as Google Play, Twitter, and Facebook that are connected to its product can access such sensitive information. Bluestacks says that there is no way to prevent such businesses from selling data. As such, Bluestacks absolves itself from any liabilities arising from the installation of third-party apps.

The tech company also abides by The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This legislation requires service providers to first get parental consent before collecting personally identifiable information related to kids below the age of 13.

The firm’s preamble forewarns users below this age against using the service and underscores that any installation of its software by a person under the age of 13 will be revoked and their data deleted.

Why Android Emulators are Gaining Popularity

With hundreds of millions of users, there are numerous reasons why Android emulators such as Bluestacks have risen in popularity over the years. The following is an outline of some of them.

1. More Processing Power and Storage

The smartphone industry has experienced exponential growth over the years. But with the growth comes the need for applications to offer a richer experience. This inadvertently drives demand for greater processing power each year.

Because of this inevitable cycle, many smartphone hardware versions fall behind as the years go by. This is one of the main reasons why emulators are in vogue.

The magnum opus of Android emulators like Bluestacks is their ability to harness PC resources, which are usually higher than those on a typical mobile phone. The added benefit is usually less lag due to the considerable processing power and greater compatibility with resource-intensive apps.

Emulators also allow users to make use of the larger storage space on a computer, compared to smartphones.

2. Good for Games

Emulators such as Bluestacks are preferred by gamers because they offer a more immersive experience through a larger display. The bigger PC screen also provides more detailed graphics than the smaller screen smartphone.

Additionally, gamers can use their favorite gamepad, keyboard, and mouse when using an emulator—which makes the experience better.

3. No Need to Worry About Battery Life

Another plus of using an emulator such as Bluestacks is the ability to use Android applications for long periods of time without worrying about battery life. This is ideal for gamers who require long uninterrupted gaming sessions.

The Latest Bluestacks Features

The latest Bluestacks releases, including Bluestacks 5, have an array of new utilitarian features that make them easier to use. The following covers some of them.

1. Macros for Preset Sequences

Bluestacks versions 4.140 and later have Macros support for predetermined action sequences. All user has to do is record an action flow and then assign it to a button. The action chain is replicated each time the button is pressed. This capability comes in handy for gamers.

2. Customizable Game Controls

Gamers can now remap preset button controls. The granular approach enables gamers to use the controls that they’re used to on the platform.

This is done via the Game Guide panel, which opens up the editable control menu.

3. Smart Controls

Bluestacks software currently has a Smart Controls feature that reduces screen clutter while playing games. At the heart of this capability is algorithmic artificial intelligence, which determines the button options to display at specific times and settings during gameplay.

4. More Supported Gamepads

To make gameplay easier, Bluestacks has added support for a wider variety of gamepads. The app is currently compatible with Logitech, Xbox, Redgear, PDP, and PS4 controllers.

Related: The Best PS4 Controllers

This is particularly helpful for Bluestacks users who prefer online tournaments on major gaming platforms, such as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

5. Eco Mode

Bluestacks software currently features an Eco Mode, which reduces the amount of computing power allocated to the app.

The company says that CPU and GPU rates can be reduced by over 80 percent. This allows users to perform multiple tasks on a computer while using the software.

The feature can be configured through the Multi-Instance Manager, which is also used to adjust the frames per second (FPS), refresh rate and sound.

Is Bluestacks Safe? In Short, Yes

While there might be some concerns about the security of the Bluestacks app, it is safe to say that the app is a legitimate software.

That said, it is evident that the Bluestacks team is keen on providing gamers with a smoother experience through an enhanced motley of usability features. As such, future versions of the software are likely to get more gamer features as competition in the segment heats up.

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