Google has taken down 85 apps from Play Store after security researchers from Trend Micro discovered annoying adware on them.
These apps were disguised as ordinary photo editing apps/games and had been downloaded over 8 million times. These apps were serving annoying ads as part of a fraudulent money-making scheme. The ads would cover your entire screen and would also be difficult to skip.
How it Worked
The adware, named AndroidOS_Hidenad.HRXH, would run in the background and detect when a user unlocks their phone to serve ads that would last as long as 5 minutes. These ads would silently click in the background without the user’s knowledge to generate ad revenue.
The apps also replaced their actual icons with shortcuts on the homescreen. Even if the user dragged and removed the icon, the app itself would still remain functional in the background.
The code behind the app would make sure the same ad is not displayed too frequently. Worse still, the fraudster could also configure the ads to display more frequently than the default 5-minute gap.
Trend Micro has given a full list of the apps that had this adware, all of these apps have been removed by Google. Nonetheless, make sure you check for reviews of unfamiliar apps to keep your devices safe. These apps usually have one-star ratings, with users complaining about the deluge of pop-up ads.