17 malicious applications that display unwanted advertisements on Android phones have been downloaded more than 550,000 times on the Play Store, according to a report published on Tuesday (14) by BitDefender virtual security experts. Once installed, apps start to hide their presence on the user’s cell phone and show a large volume of ads, maintaining behavior similar to adware.
READ: Google banned more than 1,700 malicious apps from the Play Store
According to researchers, the applications do not get to distribute malware or involve some kind of more aggressive action of data theft, although the tactics used to circumvent the security of the Play Store are associated with malicious software. Even so, BitDefender notified Google, which it said was working to remove apps from its store.
Apps circumvent Google’s verification system to bombard the user with ads – Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
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The technique to circumvent the security of the Google Play Store involves distributing the application in isolated files. Thus, the components do not look dangerous and end up being checked by the store, since they actually do what the app description signals.
One of the examples used by BitDefender to explain the tactic is «The Promise of Adrenaline». It is a racing game that informs you of the possibility of charging for the purchase of additional features and warns you that you can show ads. These features, added with the care of the application being divided into components, allow to circumvent the security policies of the Google Play Store.
Malicious apps camouflage presence in the system to display abusive ads – Photo: Disclosure / Kaspersky
The case is sophisticated because the game itself is functional. According to BitDefender, however, other examples serve only to distribute irregular advertisements. The approach, however, is always the same: the application is installed and creates routines to bombard the user with advertisements, even when it is closed.
In some cases, the application may even hide its presence on the screen of apps installed on the smartphone, making identifying the problem and eventual removal even more difficult. In this case, the solution is to look for the app in the «Settings» of the phone to perform the uninstallation.
If the application is hidden in the menu, it may be possible to remove it through the system’s «Settings» – Photo: Reproduction / Lucas Mendes
See the list of apps with unwanted advertisements:
- Car Racing 2019
- 4K Wallpaper (4K Full HD Background)
- Backgrounds 4K HD
- QR Code Reader & Barcode Scanner Pro
- File Manager Pro – Manager SD Card / Explorer
- VMOWO City: Speed Racing 3D
- Barcode Scanner
- Screen Stream Mirroring
- QR Code – Scan & Read a Barcode
- Period Tracker – Cycle Ovulation Women’s
- QR & Barcode Scan Reader
- Wallpapers 4K, Backgrounds HD
- Transfer Data Smart
- Explorer File Manager
- Today Weather Radar
- Mobnet.io: Big Fish Frenzy
- Clock LED
BitDefender notes that, in this specific case, none of the apps appear to be used as a vector for distributing malware or even aggressive actions to intercept and hijack user data. Even so, technicians say the problem is serious, since this same type of technique could be applied to more dangerous software and that could end up going unnoticed by Google’s verification system.
However, experts point out that, in previous versions, some of the applications on the list contained features that could capture information such as IMEI from the cell phone, location and IP address.
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