Tech giant, Google has removed more than 85 fake apps from their Play Store after Trend Micro reported that some of the apps on the play store were malicious and contained common adware behavior. Such apps were disguised as game apps, or TV or remote control apps, and had been downloaded in a total of 9 million times. After being downloaded, these apps reportedly infected the user’s smartphones with ads, and the only way to get rid of them was to uninstall the app or flash the phone (in some cases).
Trend Micro, during its report, said that these 85 fake apps had gone live on the Play Store through several developer accounts and had different APK certification public keys, but exhibited similar behaviors and shared the same code. Google was informed regarding this misbehavior, and the company swiftly suspended all of these apps.
One particular app – Easy Universal TV Remote – was downloaded almost 5 million times in total, but the listing’s comments section was full of complaints.
During its testing, the research analyst firm also found out that these apps had common call-to-action buttons, pressing each button within the app to pop up ads. These apps had a full-screen of ads when the app would be first launched and the call-to-action button or the app-related buttons would be pressed within the app. The adware-infected app would then inform the user that it is loading or buffering, and after a few seconds, it would disappear from the user’s screen and would hide its icon on the device. The fake app would continue to stay hidden and would run in the background, and would throw up ads every 15 to 30 minutes once. Some ads even showed a full-screen ad every time the user would unlock their phone.
The report states that “while the fake apps can be removed manually via the phone’s app uninstall feature, it can be difficult to get there when full-screen ads show up every 15 or 30 minutes or each time a user unlocks the device’s screen.”
This PDF File had a full list of the 85 fake apps and the list can be found here. If any user has any of the apps present in the list, it is highly suggested to uninstall them and remove those annoying ads. If it is not possible to uninstall them, a factory reset should be done, but make sure to back up the data, just in case the factory reset deletes all the valuable data of the user.
These fake apps had been made with the purpose of inflating ad revenue for interested parties but they didn’t do the job that they had been assigned to do. It is always suggested to read the reviews and comments before installing any unknown app from Google Play.