Search giant Google has removed 38 apps from its Google Play store that were infesting Android smartphones with out-of-context advertisements. According to a research paper, these apps focused on beauty-related features, but were mostly displaying malicious ads.
The research also states that the fraudulent apps were redirecting users to ‘out-of-context URLs and in some cases, made it nearly impossible for users to delete them.’ Reportedly, these apps had collectively gained more than 20 million downloads globally. The research also claims that all these fraudulent apps were developed by the same group of developers.
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The first lot of apps (21) appeared on Google Play in January 2019 and was focused on taking selfies or adding filters to users’ photos. But those were removed from the Google Play store after their malware-like behaviour was detected. By September, the developers had published a new batch of 15 apps that had a slower removal rate. Then in November, two new apps were updated with a fraudulent code to avoid detection by Google.
While Google has removed these 38 apps from the app store, it is possible that they are still installed on many devices. You can find the entire list of the apps removed from the Google Play store, here – https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/3400937/BeautyFraud-Appendix-A.pdf