Avast detects 21 adware-laced Android apps on Google Play store

Bad Android apps promise to offer gaming service, but flood the mobile's screen with annoying ads.
Last Updated 26 October 2020, 12:23 IST

With more than 2 billion Android user-base Google commands an enviable position in the mobile OS ecosystem. But, it also gets unwanted attention from bad actors who prey on naive phone users.

In the latest instance, Avast discovered 21 Android apps that promise to offer gaming service, but flood the mobile's screen with annoying ads.

They are said to come with trojans from HiddenAds family and the apps never fulfill the promise of entertaining the user. Also, to avoid detection and removal from the phone, they use stealth features to hide app icons and post benign-looking advertisements.

Avast has notified the Google Play team about the bad apps and so far, two have been removed and further investigation is still under progress. Once the search engine giant completes it, the rest of the 19 apps are likely to face a ban.

"Developers of adware are increasingly using social media channels, as regular marketers would. This time, users reported they were targeted with ads promoting the games on YouTube. In September we saw adware spread via TikTok. The popularity of these social networks make them an attractive advertising platform, also for cybercriminals, to target a younger audience,” said Jakub Vávra, Threat Analyst at Avast.

“While Google is doing everything possible to prevent HiddenAds from entering its Play Store, the malicious apps keep finding new ways to disguise their true purpose, thus slipping through to the platform and then to users’ phones," Vávra added.

Here's the list of adware apps spotted in the Google Play store
1) Shoot Them
2) Crush Car
3) Rolling Scroll
4) Helicopter Attack - NEW
5) Assassin Legend - 2020 NEW
6) Helicopter Shoot
7) Rugby Pass
8) Flying Skateboard
9) Iron it
10) Shooting Run
11) Plant Monster
12) Find Hidden
13) Find 5 Differences - 2020 NEW
14) Rotate Shape
15) Jump Jump
16) Find the Differences - Puzzle Game
17) Sway Man
18) Money Destroyer
19) Desert Against
20) Cream Trip - NEW
21) Props Rescue

Android phone users are advised to be wary of installing gaming and other apps on the Google Play store and also make sure to read the reviews, which shows telltale signs of bad user-experience.

In a related development, International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) detected three popular children apps--'Princess Salon, Number Coloring, and Cats and Cosplay' illegally stored user-data of kids and shared them with third-party clients.

The three apps, which are said to have a user-base of 20 million, bypassed privacy controls on phones and were able to track users over time and across devices.

Taking note of the seriousness of the issue, IDAC informed Google and the latter, after a thorough investigation, took down the app from the Play store.

“The practices we observed in our research raised serious concerns about data practices within these apps,” said Quentin Palfrey, president, IDAC.

“We applaud Google for taking steps to enforce on these apps and the third-party data practices within these apps,” Palfrey noted.

Get the latest news on new launches, gadget reviews, apps, cybersecurity, and more on personal technology only on DH Tech.

(Published 26 October 2020, 10:33 IST)

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