Android malware potentially exposes adult content to millions of children

17 January, 2018, 02:02 | Author: Devin Moran
  • Google Play store displaying fake virus scanner

The apps were mostly targeted at children and contained explicit ads and warnings of a non-existent virus. If someone completes the quiz, they're asked to enter their phone number to receive the prize, but the information is really used to register for a premium service.

The malicious code has been dubbed "AdultSwine" by researchers as it displays web advertisements that are often pornographic or inappropriate.

Check Point researchers said that apart from these current three main activities, the malicious code can use its infrastructure to broaden its goals to other purposes, such as credential theft. According to Check Point, the malware is found to have displayed pornographic ads and tried to trick users into buying premium services.

Once the malicious app is installed on the device, it waits for a boot to occur or for a user to unlock their screen in order to initiate the attack. The fact that these malicious codes made it into the Google Play Store itself is probably the scariest part. The apps were believed to be downloaded on as many as seven million Android devices.

Google has said that strong warnings will continue to be displayed on any device with the corrupt apps installed.

Upon selecting the 'Remove Virus Now' call to action, the user is directed to another app in the Google Play Store posing as a virus removal solution.

This time however, the ad claims that the user is entitled to win an iPhone by simply answering four short questions. Among the app reviews that people can leave on Google Play Store, one individual warned not to install the application on a kids' smartphone.

"These configurations instruct it on whether to hide its icon, which ads to display, over which apps and on what terms", Check Point's researchers explained.

Google told The Verge that there's also a Family collection in its store that lets parents find appropriated content for their children.

"Due to the pervasive use of mobile apps, "AdultSwine" and other similar malware will likely be continually repeated and imitated by hackers".

To the trained eye, this kind of deception stands out like a sore thumb and is easy enough to avoid, but worryingly, a number of the apps containing the malicious code are aimed squarely at children.

A complete list of affected apps is available from Check Point.

For more full details of the research, please visit our Research Blog.



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