Google Removes 85 Popular Apps Disguised As Adware

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We previously reported that Google has removed around 22 fake apps from its Play Store that risked over 2 million users.

The fake apps were disguised as games (car simulators), apps for streaming television channels from various countries (Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Spain), or posed as remote controllers for TV sets. These apps, after being downloaded, reportedly infected victims' smartphones with ads, and the only way to get rid of them is to uninstall the app or in some cases, flashing the phone.

The batch of 85 apps removed included the "Easy Universal TV Remote", which had a high proportion of negative reviews but had managed to evade Google's security filters, Trend Micro noted. But the scale of the ecosystem still means trouble for many.

If you use Android Auto, update to the latest version of the Google app and you should be able to see a new entry in your audio selector for Podcasts.

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Trend Micro said on the blog that, "We tested each of the fake apps related to the adware family and discovered that though they come from different makers and have different APK cert public keys, they exhibit similar behaviours and share the same code".

When the user launches the adware on the device it serves an initial fullscreen pop-up. These apps, when installed on the smartphone, displayed full-page ads with every button pressed. The company adds, "Upon closing the first ad, call to action buttons such as "start", "open app", or "next", as well as a banner ad will appear on the mobile device's screen". If the user clicks on any of the button then again a full screen pop up appears. This happens frequently and it will also prompt you to give the app a 5 star rating on Google Play. Some ads also show a full-screen ad every time the user unlocks their phone.

Another recent example is a weather app installed at least five million times according to statistics in Google Play available via a page capture in the Wayback Machine. You can check the names of malicious apps on Trend Micro security archives (here).

This PDF File comprising the full list of the 85 fake apps can be found here.

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