More than eight million Android users have been scammed and have downloaded ad-infected apps from the Google Play Store since July 2018. In all, 42 malicious apps have managed to bypass Google's store security mechanism to generate fraudulent revenue through advertisements and steal data from the victim's device. The information was released on Thursday (24) by cybersecurity company ESET. All apps have already been removed from the Play Store.
Although they looked legitimate and offered all the features promised, the applications ran in the background, sending information about the user's mobile phone to a command and control (C&C) server. Data entered included operating system version, language, number of apps installed, available storage space, battery status, and whether the device was rooted.
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Over eight million Android users have been tricked into downloading 42 apps infected with adware from the Play Store. Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
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After downloading, infected apps employed a variety of techniques to stay installed on the device for as long as possible, including mimicking Facebook and Google apps, which avoided suspicion and possible detections. In addition, many fraudulent applications delete the shortcut itself, making it difficult to remove adware.
ESET also found that some of the applications were able to verify that the device was connected to Google's servers. If apps suspected the company was performing a security scan, a procedure that keeps the Play Store free from malicious applications, adware activation would be suspended. With this tactic, malware could stay in the Google store longer.
The list of infected applications includes Video Downloader Master, which had five million downloads, and Ringtone Maker Pro, installed by 500,000 users. Although Google has removed malicious items from the Play Store, ESET warns that many of them are still available from third-party app stores. The search giant has not commented on the removal of the adware.
To avoid installing fake apps that contain malicious code, Android users can use Google Play Protect, which helps to reinforce the security of the device. It is also recommended to keep antivirus software installed on the smartphone. THE dnetc prepared a list of the best options for Android in 2019.
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