Researchers at security firm Trend Micro have found dozens of apps, including popular utilities and games, to serve a ton of displayed ads — including full-screen advertisements, concealed advertisements and advertisements running in the background to squeeze too much cash from unsuspecting Android consumers.
In all, the researchers found 85 apps pushing adware, totaling at least 9 million users that were affected.
One app — a worldwide TV remote program for Android — had more than five million users despite a rash of negative complaints and reviews which advertisements were”hidden in the background.” Other users stated there were”numerous ads, [they] can not even use it.”
The researchers tested each app and discovered that many shared the same or comparable code, and often the apps were likewise named. At each turn, click or tap, the app would display an ad, they discovered. In doing this, the program generates money for the app maker.
Adware-fueled programs may not seem as bad as other apps packaged with malware or hidden performance, such as apps that pull malicious payloads from a different server after the app is installed. At scale, that may amount to tens of thousands of fraudulent ad dollars each week. Some ads also have a tendency to be malicious, including hidden code which tries to fool users into installing malware on their telephones or computers.
(You can get a complete listing of apps here.)
Google told TechCrunch that it had eliminated the programs, but a spokesperson did not comment further.
We tried reaching out to the universal TV remote app founder but the registered email on the since-removed Google Play store program points into a domain name that no longer exists.
Despite Google’s very best efforts in scanning apps before they are accepted into Google Play, malicious apps are one of the biggest and most common threats to Android users. Google pulled over 700,000 malicious apps from Google Play in the last year alone, and has attempted to improve its back-end to prevent malicious programs from becoming into the shop in the first location.
Yet the search and mobile giant continues to combat malicious and ninja apps, pulling at least 13 malicious programs in a sweep in November alone.