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Apps that do nothing but serve ads ‘tricked’ 9 million Android users

10 January 2019

Google has removed as many as 85 fake apps from the Play Store after Trend Micro reported that they were malicious and contained common adware behaviour. It is unclear how long it survived in Google Play, but it accumulated over five million installations. This happens frequently and it will also prompt you to give the app a 5 star rating on Google Play.

This batch of apps was hard for the user to miss - some adware continues to generate bogus impressions in the background. Quick Heal Spots Fake Android Applications in Google Play Store.

The apps, purportedly TV and video players and controllers, would consistently show full-screen ads until they crashed.

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When the adware is downloaded, they found out that it initially shows a full screen ad and when you close it, several call to action buttons like "start", "open app" or "next" will appear. My guess is it continued to run ads in the background. These apps though flashy to look offers no convenience to the users and affect the performance of the device.

None of the apps had real functionality and their true objective was to make money for their developer by dropping a deluge of advertisements on the devices that installed them. It is great Trend Micro reported these apps to Google who swiftly suspended the fake apps after verifying the report. These apps throw full-screen ads when the app is first launched; any call-to-action button or any app-related buttons is pressed within the app. Once that ad was closed, users would see a screen with multiple options.

Some of the shady apps that they uncovered included the Easy Universal TV Remote, Advanced Air Ambulance and many more.

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The beta version is expected to hit the stable channel next week so keep an eye out for the update and check out the Google Podcasts app before heading back to your usual podcast app due to its lack of the usual functionality.

Mobile security company Upstream found that the variant available in Play store asked for a set of "special and high-risk permissions" an app of its kind does not require for normal functioning, such as reading low-level system log files. If you have installed such apps on your Android phone, it is advised that it should be deleted immediately.

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Apps that do nothing but serve ads ‘tricked’ 9 million Android users