Google Play apps with >20M downloads depleted batteries and network bandwidth

Google Play apps with >20M downloads depleted batteries and network bandwidth

Google Play has given the boot to 16 apps with more than 20 million combined installations after researchers detected malicious activity that could cause the Android devices they ran on to drain batteries faster and use more data than normal.

The apps provided legitimate functions, including flashlight, camera, QR reading, and measurement conversions, security firm McAfee said on Wednesday. When opened, however, the apps surreptitiously downloaded additional code that caused them to perform ad fraud. From then on, infected devices received messages through the Google-owned Firebase Cloud Messaging platform that instructed them to open specific web pages in the background and select links to artificially inflate the number of clicks ads received.

“Mainly, it is visiting websites which are delivered by FCM message and browsing them successively in the background while mimicking user’s behavior,” McAfee’s SangRyol Ryu wrote. “This may cause heavy network traffic and consume power without user awareness during the time it generates profit for the threat actor behind this malware.”

The post included the following screenshot illustrating a small sampling of the additional network demands a device made when performing the fraud.

All of the malicious apps came with a code library named com.liveposting, which acts as an agent and runs hidden adware services. Other apps also came with an additional library called com.click.cas, which focused on the automated clicking functionality. To conceal the fraudulent behavior, the apps waited about an hour after installation before running the libraries.

Ad fraud works through affiliate programs, which allow a third party to receive a cut of the ad revenue in return for providing links that lead end users to ads. Rather than genuinely bringing real users to the site, the fraudsters simulate the referral using bots or other automated methods to mimic real user engagement.

The apps detected by McAfee include:

Package name SHA256 Name Downloaded
com.hantor.CozyCamera a84d51b9d7ae675c38e260b293498db071b1dfb08400b4f65ae51bcda94b253e High-Speed Camera 10,000,000+
com.james.SmartTaskManager 00c0164d787db2ad6ff4eeebbc0752fcd773e7bf016ea74886da3eeceaefcf76 Smart Task Manager 5,000,000+
kr.caramel.flash_plus b675404c7e835febe7c6c703b238fb23d67e9bd0df1af0d6d2ff5ddf35923fb3 Flashlight+ 1,000,000+
com.smh.memocalendar 65794d45aa5c486029593a2d12580746582b47f0725f2f002f0f9c4fd1faf92c 달력메모장 1,000,000+
com.joysoft.wordBook 82723816760f762b18179f3c500c70f210bbad712b0a6dfbfba8d0d77753db8d K-Dictionary 1,000,000+
com.kmshack.BusanBus b252f742b8b7ba2fa7a7aa78206271747bcf046817a553e82bd999dc580beabb BusanBus 1,000,000+
com.candlencom.candleprotest a2447364d1338b73a6272ba8028e2524a8f54897ad5495521e4fab9c0fd4df6d Flashlight+ 500,000+
com.movinapp.quicknote a3f484c7aad0c49e50f52d24d3456298e01cd51595c693e0545a7c6c42e460a6 Quick Note 500,000+
com.smartwho.SmartCurrencyConverter a8a744c6aa9443bd5e00f81a504efad3b76841bbb33c40933c2d72423d5da19c Currency Converter 500,000+
com.joysoft.barcode 809752e24aa08f74fce52368c05b082fe2198a291b4c765669b2266105a33c94 Joycode 100,000+
com.joysoft.ezdica 262ad45c077902d603d88d3f6a44fced9905df501e529adc8f57a1358b454040 EzDica 100,000+
com.schedulezero.instapp 1caf0f6ca01dd36ba44c9e53879238cb46ebb525cb91f7e6c34275c4490b86d7 Instagram Profile Downloader 100,000+
com.meek.tingboard 78351c605cfd02e1e5066834755d5a57505ce69ca7d5a1995db5f7d5e47c9da1 Ez Notes 100,000+
com.candlencom.flashlite 4dd39479dd98124fd126d5abac9d0a751bd942b541b4df40cb70088c3f3d49f8 손전등 1,000+
com.doubleline.calcul 309db11c2977988a1961f8a8dbfc892cf668d7a4c2b52d45d77862adbb1fd3eb 계산기 100+
com.dev.imagevault bf1d8ce2deda2e598ee808ded71c3b804704ab6262ab8e2f2e20e6c89c1b3143 Flashlight+ 100+

In a statement, a Google spokesperson noted that all apps reported by McAfee had been removed. The representative went on to say: “Users are also protected by Google Play Protect, which blocks these apps on Android devices.” The spokesperson didn’t answer a follow-up question asking how the apps racked up 20 million installations if they’re blocked.

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