Millions of Android users have been duped into downloading malicious apps containing adware, in the latest example of the security threats posed by Google’s open platform.
Security firm Avast reported uncovering several English language apps that were offered on the Google Play store that contained the malicious code.
Avast researcher Filip Chytry wrote in a blog post that the apps being in English provided a huge user base to target, noting that one, a card game called Durak, had been downloaded between five and 10 million times.
Chytry explained that the apps appeared innocent at first, and were often of a high quality, but that the malicious payload would start to be released after around 30 days of being installed.
“Each time you unlock your device an ad is presented to you, warning you about a problem, e.g. that your device is infected, out of date or full of porn. This, of course, is a complete lie,” he said.
“You are then asked to take action. However, if you approve you get redirected to harmful threats on fake pages, like dubious app stores and apps that attempt to send premium SMS behind your back or to apps that simply collect too much of your data for comfort while offering you no additional value.”
The video below shows the adware in action.
Surprisingly, the apps also sometimes redirect to genuine security apps from trusted providers. However, even if these were installed, the fake ads would still pop-up, causing more confusion for the device owner.
The Durak app, as well as an IQ testing app and a history trivia app which were also found to be part of the scam, have since been removed from the Google Play store.
Avast said that people should remain dubious of apps on Android that are not from trusted sources, and to check minor details such as the quality of the language in app descriptions.
"The apps’ descriptions should make users sceptical about the legitimacy of the apps,” Chytry noted.
The report of the malicious apps is just the latest in a long-line of security woes to blight the Android ecosystem.
Despite this, Google announced last month that it will end security support for its WebView browser owing to the complexity of maintaining it.
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