Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Malicious Optimizers Hosted on Google Play Amassed 470,000 Downloads

Malicious optimizer, booster, and utility applications hosted on Google Play gathered nearly half a million downloads before being taken down, Trend Micro reports.

Malicious optimizer, booster, and utility applications hosted on Google Play gathered nearly half a million downloads before being taken down, Trend Micro reports.

The apps, which are detected by the company’s products as AndroidOS_BadBooster.HRX, were designed to perform activities such as ad fraud, and to download around 3,000 malware variants or other malicious payloads to the infected devices.

Active since 2017, the campaign involved 9 malicious applications, with a collective download count of more than 470,000. Four of the apps gathered more than 100,000 downloads each before Google removed them from the official storefront.

All of the offending apps — they were named Shoot Clean, Super Clean Lite, Super Clean, Quick Games, Rocket Cleaner, Rocket Cleaner Lite, Speed Clean, LinkWorldVPN, and H5 gamebox — have been removed from Google Play.

The malware variants these apps drop onto devices masquerade as system applications and do not show icons on the launcher or application list.

Speed Clean, for example, was designed to launch a transparent activity background that hides malicious content from the user, while a service establishes a connection with remote ad configuration servers and registers the installation. Next, the app starts displaying malicious ad content.

The app can also download malware variants or other payloads on the infected device to perform additional ad fraud techniques, including simulating a user clicking on ads for malicious Google Play application. These apps are integrated in legitimate advertising platforms, such as Google AdMob and Facebook Audience Network.

The malicious payloads can also install rewarded apps from mobile advertising platforms — in a virtual environment, to prevent user detection — and can trick users into enabling accessibility permissions and deactivating Google Play Protect.

The apps can then abuse the affected device’s accessibility function to post fake reviews or to log in the new applications with users’ Google and Facebook accounts.

In 2017, when the campaign started, there were 6 malware variants these applications could download. Over 169 such malicious payloads were observed throughout 2018, roughly 2,600 emerged in 2019, and 33 more were added to the list at the beginning of 2020.

Over the past three months, Trend Micro observed more than 65,000 infections associated with the campaign. Japan was affected the most, with over 48,000 infections, followed by Taiwan with more than 5,700, the United States with nearly 2,500, Israel with over 1,950, and India with a bit more than 1,080.

Trend Micro’s security researchers observed that malicious content was being delivered to users regardless of the geographic parameter value of the country code, except for China, suggesting that the campaign’s operators attempt to avoid infecting users from this country.

“Fraudsters attempt to deceive users by making malicious apps look genuine, so users should do their due diligence before downloading any mobile app. Verifying an app’s legitimacy is typically done by checking user-created reviews on the Play Store. However, in this particular case, the malicious app is capable of downloading payloads that can post fake reviews unbeknownst to the user,” Trend Micro concludes.

Related: Threat From Pre-Installed Malware on Android Phones is Growing

Related: Ring Doorbell App for Android Sends Out Loads of User Data

Related: ‘StrandHogg’ Vulnerability Exploited by Malicious Android Apps

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

Click to comment

Expert Insights

Related Content


Zendesk is informing customers about a data breach that started with an SMS phishing campaign targeting the company’s employees.


The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 has demonstrated the potential of AI for both good and bad.


The FBI dismantled the network of the prolific Hive ransomware gang and seized infrastructure in Los Angeles that was used for the operation.

Malware & Threats

Microsoft plans to improve the protection of Office users by blocking XLL add-ins from the internet.


A new study by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) named a staggering figure as the true annual cost of...

Mobile & Wireless

Apple rolled out iOS 16.3 and macOS Ventura 13.2 to cover serious security vulnerabilities.

Mobile & Wireless

Technical details published for an Arm Mali GPU flaw leading to arbitrary kernel code execution and root on Pixel 6.

Mobile & Wireless

Apple’s iOS 12.5.7 update patches CVE-2022-42856, an actively exploited vulnerability, in old iPhones and iPads.