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More than nine million Android users installed apps that did nothing but serve ads

More than nine million Android users installed apps that did nothing but serve ads
According to a new report from Trend Micro (via Tech Crunch), more than 9 million Android users were duped into installing 85 apps from the Google Play Store that contained adware. These were listed as games, TV and remote control simulator apps. The adware that these apps contained were able to push out full screen ads, ads that were hidden, and ads that ran in the background. This created revenue for those behind the scheme.

While a full list of the apps involved can be found in an appendix to Trend Micro's report, Google did suspend all 85. When Trend Micro tested these apps, they all exhibited similar behavior starting with a full-screen ad once the app was open. After closing the ad, typically the next screen would have a button that needed to be pressed such as "Start" or "Next." Pressing that button would call up another full-screen ad. Once that ad was closed, users would see a screen with multiple options. Pressing on any of those buttons would result in another full-screen ad being served.

After that, the app would show that is was in the process of loading or buffering. After a few seconds, the app would disappear from the screen and the icon also disappeared from the phone or tablet. Even though the app was hidden, a full-page ad would appear on the user's display every 15 to 30 minutes. Ads would also appear every time the user unlocked his/her device. While the apps could be uninstalled, the user would have to act only when there was an opportunity since ads were being served so often.

Some of the fake apps that contained adware

Some of the fake apps that contained adware


One particular title, Easy Universal TV Remote (see image at the top of this article), had more than 5 million installs. However, a cursory read of the comments section should have alerted Android users to a problem with the app. One reviewer wrote, "Downloaded the app twice...ran long enough to ask me to vote for stars and then crash (sic). The app then disappeared from my phone but appeared to be installed. My guess is it continued to run ads in the background. Pure scam."

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15 Comments

RebelwithoutaClue

Posts: 5454; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

Google really needs to step up their game. I know they use algorithms to check for unwanted behaviour instead of real people like Apple does. But for a company that is so keen on their machine learning and AI in general, their malware algorithms fall short.

pecapello

Posts: 99; Member since: Feb 19, 2015

This number should be much higher if they took Samsung Push into consideration

cmdacos

Posts: 3626; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

What's Samsung push?

cmdacos

Posts: 3626; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

The people that download these crap apps deserve everything they get.

emjoigently

Posts: 127; Member since: Aug 22, 2017

No. People install a Universal Remote App because they want a Universal Remote. They aren't stupid. They just aren't constantly paranoid. Google has to tighten up its permissions and scanning for crap apps. But when they do that... Tighten up SMS permission for example... People scream about Google locking them up like Apple. I look at the utter turd pit of Trojans that Windows programs descended into, and we're getting there with Android.

lyndon420

Posts: 6196; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

If your phone doesn't have an IR blaster, you'd be an idiot for downloading a universal remote app of any kind.

cmdacos

Posts: 3626; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Exactly. Same goes for flashlight apps.

lyndon420

Posts: 6196; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I know right? All phones have a built in flashlight function, so why download one that requires internet access? There are dumbass people in every camp.

VJo003

Posts: 365; Member since: Mar 11, 2012

There are 2 things abundant in the universe - Nitrogen & Stupidity.

Zylam

Posts: 1745; Member since: Oct 20, 2010

But I thought Android people are the smartest people on earth? What's happened here buddy? Trouble in paradise? A Civil War in Android land?

cmdacos

Posts: 3626; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Hey a ghost of commenters past... cool

KingSam

Posts: 1267; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

I’ve seen apps that tenderer people’s devices useless. Ads EVERYWHERE. Especially if they gain root access. They take over the phone.

path45th

Posts: 393; Member since: Sep 11, 2016

I’ve been using iPhones since ever and I never, ever had had any ad popping up on the lock screen or during use. Google store is full of garbage.

worldpeace

Posts: 2968; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

I use Android for years and never see ads on lock screen :-/

mrochester

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

So you’re saying android users are stupid? Who knew!

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