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. These apps are disguised as game apps, or TV or remote control apps, and had been downloaded a total of 9 million times. These apps, after being downloaded, reportedly infected victims’ smartphones with ads, and the only way to get rid of them is to uninstall the app or in some cases, flashing the phone.
Trend Micro, in its report, says that these 85 fake apps were made live on the Play Store through several developer accounts and have different APK certification public keys, but they exhibit similar behaviours and share the same code. After Google was informed of this misbehaviour, the tech giant was swift in suspending all of these apps. One particular app – Easy Universal TV Remote – had been downloaded almost 5 million times in total, and the listing’s comments section was filled with complaints.
In its testing, the research analyst firm found that these apps had common call-to-action buttons, and pressing each button within the app popped up ads. 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. The adware-infected app then informs the user that it is loading or buffering, and after a few seconds, it disappears from the user’s screen and hides its icon on the device. The fake app stays hidden but continues to run in the background throwing full-screen ads every 15 or 30 minutes. Some ads also show a full-screen ad every time the user unlocks 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 comprising the full list of the 85 fake apps can be found here. If you happen to have any of these apps downloaded on your device, we recommend you uninstall them right away to remove the annoying ads that may have been cropping on your device. If you are unable to uninstall them, a factory reset should be considered. Remember to back up your data in this case, as it deletes all device data.
These particular fake apps were solely made to inflate ad revenue for interested parties, and did not do the job they were marketed to do. We advise you read reviews and comments before installing any unknown app from Google Play.