Google takes down 15 adware-laced Android apps

Over the years, Google has steadily scaled up the security to check adware and malware-infested apps entering the Play store. Despite the stringent screening techniques, some intelligent bad actors are still successfully sneaking into the Android ecosystem.

In the latest development, Internet security researchers at SophosLabs have uncovered 15 malicious apps on Play store hoodwinking customers to install them and ruining the user experience and also flood the phone's screen with annoying ads. When the user decides to delete these apps, they change their icon image and make themselves resemble like an Android system apps.

"When first launched, the app displays a message that says “This app is incompatible with your device!” You might think that the app has crashed, because, after this “crash,” the app opens the Play Store and navigates to the page for Google Maps, to mislead you into thinking that the ubiquitous Maps app is the cause of the problem. It is not. This is a ruse,"Pankaj Kohli, SophosLabs researcher said.

"The app then hides its own icon so it doesn’t show up in the launcher’s app tray. Others in the list hide their icon, too: Some do this on the first launch, while others simply wait for a while after you install the app," Kohli added.

The 15 apps ( in the above picture) come in the form of utility tools such as QR code reader, photo editor, wallpapers and find my phone, among others. According to the research estimation, more than 1.5 million people have installed these applications.


Adware-laced apps disguising as Google service apps (Picture Credit: SophosLabs Blog)

After taking note of the issue, Google has removed all the 15 adware-laced apps from the Play store. There is no serious case of apps stealing personal information, as such but it amounts to breach of trust. The apps are expected to serve the people, but they have failed to deliver the service and they are known to exhibit shady behaviour of disguising themselves as Google Play services to fool people not to install them.

If you happen to have installed any of those apps, you are advised to uninstall them immediately.

Here's How to safeguard your mobile phone from adware and other malicious threats:
1) Whether you have an Android mobile or iOS-based iPhone, always stay updated with the latest software. Both Google and Apple send regularly send firmware — especially security patches monthly or on a priority basis, whenever they detect threats. So, make sure you install the latest software.
2) Another good practice is to install a premium Antivirus software on mobile, which offers 24x7 protection. They are equipped to detect threats quickly whenever you unknowingly visit a shady website
3) Never ever open emails or SMS and click URL links sent from unknown senders 
4) Also, never install apps from unfamiliar publishers. 
5) Always download apps from Google Play or Apple App store only. Never install from any third-party app store.

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