1.2 million people were victimized after their phones were hijacked and forced to make fraudulent clicks to porn websites when Google’s screening tools missed numerous malicious apps in its Play Store.
According to Peter Stancik, an ESET researcher, there were nearly 350 malicious Android applications uploaded to the Play Store since August. 10 of these apps were developed and successfully added to Google Play every week, bypassing the tech giant’s code-checking defense tools. Each of these apps were downloaded on average 3,600 times.
Stancik said its one of the largest malware campaigns happening on Google Play store, and still the criminals are uploading more sophisticated modifications of these malevolent apps for the Android mobile platform on the Google Play Store.
He said the porn clickers made it both in the store and compromised users’ phones. Stancik said after the apps were installed, they produced fake clicks on ads to increase revenue for operators, taking away from advertisers and endangering ad platforms.
According to researchers, the victims may find their data usage bills increase but not be a victim of data theft. Prior Android malware have gone from general fraudulent advertising to stealing private and personal information from victims.
Lukáš Štefanko, an ESET researcher, said it’s a “true campaign” compared to the unrelated attacks, as these apps are the result of one family.
Although Google has taken steps to remove the apps, the attackers are still getting by.
The researching team launched a barrage of apps and software at the “verify apps” security setting, and noted that the setting only flagged malicious apps that were previously forbidden from Google’s Play Store.
Štefanko suggested Google needed to add more filters to find malicious code hidden in fake apps. He also mentioned that Google has yet to reveal how the company’s Bouncer app-filtering tool is employed.
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