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Android apps with adware have been downloaded more than 150 million times

A new adware hidden in 210 Android apps has been downloaded more than 150 million times on Google Play. The threat called SlimBad disguises itself through advertisements on the platforms and, thus, does not generate suspicion in the victims. The virus, which was identified by researchers at security company Check Point, mainly affects simulation games – these total more than 55 million downloads, concentrated in ten applications. Despite this, in an official statement in January 2018, Google outlined measures against malicious content in 2017 and reaffirmed its commitment to «providing a safe experience for billions of users».

According to the company’s monitoring, SlimBad was hidden within a software development kit (SDK) used for advertising and monetization purposes. In addition to displaying infected advertisements, the malware is also able to open the browser on any page, including phishing, and download more malicious apps from the official Google store or from a remote server. However, the only malicious activity recorded by Check Point experts was the display of ads.

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1 of 1 Google Play Store had 700,000 apps removed from its catalog in 2017 – Photo: Thássius Veloso / TechTudo

Google Play Store had 700,000 apps removed from its catalog in 2017 – Photo: Thássius Veloso / TechTudo

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The strategy used in the development of the virus made removal difficult. The SDK included code that allowed SlimBad to remove its own icon. That way, it went unnoticed while using the device. In order to have access to the operation of the device, the malware would be loaded in the background each time the system was started and, thus, would run advertisements to generate fraudulent revenue.

Google removed the infected content reported by Check Point from the official app store. The adware was also found in photo editors and applications for downloading wallpapers.

THE TechTudo contacted the company, but there has been no response so far. According to the TechCrunch portal, cell phone infection via Google Play is a recurring problem in the system. In 2017, the Android developer removed about 700,000 dangerous software from the download platform. However, it is worth mentioning that the measure does not exclude items from users’ cell phones – this must be done manually.

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