9 million users installed 85 adware infected apps from Play Store

Google has now removed all 85 Adware from Play Store.

Reportedly, 85 Android applications on Google Play Store were discovered to be sending dangerous, full-screen adware to users. These apps collectively have been installed approx. 9 million times across the world. It is identified that the apps had a built-in adware strain that could display ads at regular intervals when the mobile is in-use as well as when the user unlocks the device.

The apps didn’t have any real functionality and their actual function was to bombard the mobile device with adverts so that their developers could earn revenues. Most of the applications were games such as car simulators, TV sets remote controllers or television channel streaming services for different countries including Spain, South Africa, Canada, and Brazil.

The most widely downloaded app was Easy Universal TV Remote that was updated the last time in November’ 18 and boasted of over 5 million installations with an average 3.9 stars rating from more than 132,000 users.

According to Trend Micro researcher Ecular Xu, the adware dubbed as AndroidOS_HidenAd hides itself and keeps running in the background to keep monitoring the state of the device. All of the 85 apps display similar behavior despite having different developers and certificates.

As soon as any of the infected apps is installed and launched on the device, it immediately displays a fullscreen popup ad. When the user closes the ad, it launched an app button that reads Start, Open App or Next and when the button is tapped, it launches yet another ad. Furthermore, it requests the user to give a five-star rating to the app on Google Play.

The app keeps running in the background and launched app after every 15 or 30 minutes’ interval. Moreover, the app pushes ads whenever the user unlocks the android device and even when the user isn’t browsing the internet.

“After the user exits the full-screen ad, more buttons that provide app-related options for users appear on the screen. It also prompts the user to give the app a five-star rating on Google Play. If the user clicks on any of the buttons, a full-screen ad will pop up again,” said Xu explains in their blog post.

Some of the apps included in the list of removed apps include Prado Parking City 3D Game, Police Chase Extreme City 3D Game, Moto Racing, TV World, A/C Air Conditioner Remote, Parking Game, Sports TV, and Garage Door Remote Control, etc.

When the findings were reported to Google by Trend Micro, the company immediately removed the apps from its official Play Store. Users who have already downloaded one of the 85 apps may find it difficult to remove it manually. We suggest that to stay protected from such malicious apps, it is important to stick to trusted developers and brands and never to download fishy apps. Installing a reliable antivirus would also be helpful in thwarting impending attacks.

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