The fight against adware continues with Google recently removing 29 apps from the Play Store. The apps – mostly photo blur apps – already had 3.5 million downloads. The WhiteOps Satori Threat Intelligence and Research Team discovered the malicious activity and has posted a full list of the apps that should be uninstalled immediately.
These malicious Android apps were initially able to avoid detection as they were running out-of-context (OOC) ads. In addition, once users installed one of these apps injected with adware, the launch icons would disappear from their phones. This made it hard for users to find and remove the apps and kept them on phones for longer.
One app that the Satori team researched more closely in their investigation was the Square Photo Blur app. Once installed the launch icon disappeared as did the “open” function on the Play Store. Almost every action performed on the device triggered a code in the app that made an ad pop up. For example, ads would be set off from unlocking the phone, charging the phone, uninstalling an app, or switching between Wi-Fi and mobile data. Besides its annoying ads that would take over the screen, the Square Photo Blur app also managed to launch an OOC web browser.
How dangerous is adware?
While not as threatening to your device as a typical malware, adware is not without its dangers. Generally, the goal of adware is to make money, generating revenue for the developer via each ad click. Some adware can also track search and browsing history to display ads that are more relevant to the user, and thus will more likely be clicked. The collected search history is often sold to third parties as well.
How to remove adware on an Android phone
If you did accidentally install an app infected with adware onto your Android phone you can try a quick fix. Go to Settings and then to your Applications section, locate the app you want to get rid of, clear the cache and data, and then uninstall it. If you are unsure which app is causing the problem, then follow these steps for all the apps you most recently downloaded. Once you’ve finished removing all suspicious apps, restart your phone. If uninstalling the bogus apps didn’t seem to do the trick, you can then investigate saving your device with an adware removal tool.
How to avoid installing apps injected with adware
Although Google has removed this set of malicious adware apps from the Play Store it’s important to be on alert for further bogus apps. For starters, look at the reviews of the apps and see if other users have already alerted to any red flags. In particular, see if anyone who has installed the app mentions ads popping up all the time or if the app disappears directly after downloading. Other indicators pointing to a potentially malicious app are that an app has a lot of 5-star reviews but the most recent are all 1-star, the app has been downloaded many times within a short time, and that the app does not work as advertised. And even though it doesn’t have a perfect track record, it’s a good rule of thumb to only download apps from the official Google Play Store. Third-party app stores are typically less secure.
Protect yourself with an anti-adware tool
Even if you know what to look out for, you can still be vulnerable to adware as the sophisticated techniques of hackers and scammers are ever-evolving. One way to better protect yourself is to install an adware removal tool on all your devices. You can get a dedicated adware cleaner for free included in Avira Free Security, available for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows. The anti-adware tool helps protect from potential malicious online ads, stop redirects to dangerous websites, and offers privacy protections.