The apps, purportedly TV and video players and controllers, would consistently show full-screen ads until they crashed.
None of the apps had real functionality and their true goal was to make money for their developer by dropping a deluge of advertisements on the devices that installed them. But the scale of the ecosystem still means trouble for many.
Google Removes 85 Popular Apps Disguised As Adware
This batch of apps was hard for the user to miss - some adware continues to generate bogus impressions in the background.
You can find a full list here (PDF). Fake Apps of SBI, ICICI, Axis And Other Banks on Google Play May Have Stolen Data of Customers: Report. Other apps monitor your screen unlocking actions and show ads each time you unlock your screen.More news: FDA Postponing Some Food Inspections As Shutdown Drags On, Commissioner Says
"We tested each of the fake apps related to the adware family and discovered that though they come from different makers and have different APK cert public keys, they exhibit similar behaviours and share the same code", Trend Micro said on the blog.
The report states that "while the fake apps can be removed manually via the phone's app uninstall feature, it can be hard to get there when full-screen ads show up every 15 or 30 minutes or each time a user unlocks the device's screen". The company adds, "Upon closing the first ad, call to action buttons such as "start", "open app", or "next", as well as a banner ad will appear on the mobile device's screen".More news: Kansas loses Azubuike for season to torn hand tendon
If the user insists on using the app, a loading screen appears and the fake app's interface vanishes. This happens frequently and it will also prompt you to give the app a 5 star rating on Google Play. The company claims that these 85 apps have been downloaded 9 million times around the world. The adware now shows full-screen ad every 15 to 30 minutes on the user's device. This is the most downloaded app in the list of 85 apps.
What the Upstream investigation found was that the app was running ad-fraud activities behind users' back by accessing various web pages with advertisements without any interaction.More news: Man held over suspicious packages to Pak, other embassies in Australia
Google has removed the apps reported by Trend Micro and the one analyzed by Upstream.