Do you ever find yourself randomly flicking through dozens of Play Store pages, sections, and categories in search for useful or just fun new apps and games to install on your Android device? If yes, you might want to occasionally take a little time to clean your phone of potentially malicious and invasive content as well.
The latest threat
For the umpteenth time in recent months, a group of security researchers has discovered and rigorously documented a nefarious Play Store operation that you should do everything in your power to stay away from. For its part, Google
has booted all 19 apps found guilty of rampant and fraudulent ad-inserting behavior after being made aware of their shenanigans, but it's equally as important (if not more important) that you do the same ASAP.
After all, Google Play can't protect you from this type of heinous conduct once you've downloaded a malicious app (or, as it turns out, before installing these titles), so you'll have to manually locate and delete each and every dangerous app from your own phone. With more than 3.5 million downloads between them, odds are unfortunately that some of you have indeed fallen victim to the predatory tactics detailed in the latest White Ops report
The worst thing about this particular set of mischievous Android apps is that they're programmed to trick their users into believing they don't work or can't be installed properly, removing their own launch icons shortly after being downloaded to make the uninstall process unnecessarily difficult.
But while their advertised functionality is often limited or outright nonexistent, the clandestine goals are clear, simple, and annoyingly effective - bombarding users with ads, as well as diverting web traffic to shady portals. That doesn't sound very pleasant... or secure, although in fairness, the report doesn't mention anything about this malware attacking the integrity of your personal information or financial data.
The list (and the best ways to avoid future infections)
Still, you should absolutely check both your phone's home screen and the full list of apps currently installed on your device from the settings menu for any of these titles:
- Auto Picture Cut
- Color Call Flash
- Square Photo Blur
- Square Blur Photo
- Magic Call Flash
- Easy Blur
- Image Blur
- Auto Photo Blur
- Photo Blur
- Photo Blur Master
- Super Call Screen
- Square Blur Master
- Square Blur
- Smart Blur Photo
- Smart Photo Blur
- Super Call Flash
- Smart Call Flash
- Blur Photo Editor
- Blur Image
As you can notice, there's a common theme in the names and description of these apps, all of which were disguised as photo editors allowing you to blur different sections of images captured with your phone's cameras.
Play Store reviews for the now-deleted Square Photo Blur app
In addition to deleting any and all of the above as soon as possible, you'll want to pay extra attention next time you download anything developed by sketchy companies or "people" named Thomas Mary, Kirk Brian, or Davis Betty.
Random developer names like that should be your first red flag, often proving fake, while the number of 1-star reviews given to an app can be a dead giveaway of its true nature, even when accompanied by an equal or higher number of 5-star ratings. The latter group is most of the time fake too, and especially if many of the 1-star reviews mention things like limited functionality, random and aggressive ads, and a tricky uninstall process, you should perhaps try to find a more reliable alternative.