Highly aggressive adware has been found hidden in ten Android applications hosted on Google Play, Bitdefender reported.
Adware is highly common on both desktop PCs and smartphones. However, the threats discovered by the security firm stand out not just because they are aggressive, but also because they employ clever tricks to stay hidden on the infected device.
Once installed, the apps redirect victims to a webpage, hosted at mobilsitelerim.com/anasayfa, which serves ads designed to trick users into installing other pieces of adware disguised as system or performace updates, or get them to sign up for premium services. The displayed ads differ depending on the user’s location, Bitdefender said.
“Although they’re not malicious per se, by broadcasting sensitive user information to third parties, they resemble aggressive adware found on desktop PCs. The resulting barrage of pop-ups, redirects and ads irks users and seriously damages both the user experience and the performance of Android devices,” Bitdefender security researcher Liviu Arsene explained in a blog post.
After the adware (Android.Trojan.HiddenApp.E) is installed on the device, the redirections occur whenever the victim tries to access a website via the stock Android browser, Chrome, Firefox, and even Facebook.
“After the apps are installed, the redirects occur as soon as you open any of the mentioned browsers. Regardless of what URL you’re trying to visit, you’re redirected to ad-displaying websites. The next redirect is performed after 60 seconds have elapsed,” Arsene told SecurityWeek via email.
The applications had been uploaded to Google Play with names such as “What is my ip.” Researchers found the apps under two developer accounts, but the same individual might be behind both of them.
In order to avoid raising suspicion, the applications only require two permissions on installation (Network Communication and System Tools). While users might figure out which of the apps they installed cause the annoying redirections, removing them could prove difficult. That’s because the applications are installed with the name “System Manager,” instead of the one used to advertise them on Google Play.
The search giant appears to have removed most of the apps from Google Play after being alerted by Bitdefender, but some of the shady programs can still be found on third-party app markets. Experts believe the adware made it past Google’s vetting process because the URL that is used to redirect users doesn’t actually serve any malicious APKs.