One million Android customers hacked by “probably the most subtle” assault consultants have ever seen it

Another day, another Android attack. One of the downsides to the most widely used mobile operating system in the world is that hackers have a pretty big interest in your platform. For Android users, this means a fairly uninterrupted barrage of warnings of new malware attacks in online app stores trying to deter people from the Google Play Store, rogue apps that have managed to go through Google’s checks to get Get to the Play Store, and more. The latest warning is quite worrying. Security experts refer to it as the “most sophisticated” fraud campaign of its kind.

Researchers at Human, a security firm known as White Ops prior to its takeover by Goldman Sachs, detailed a widespread fraud campaign from 2019. A total of 29 Android apps were found in the Google Play Store, which is the default digital store for most Android users and manages app downloads, updates, film rentals and e-book sales. Once these apps were installed, the software would make your Android device appear as a smart TV to advertisers.

Why? As with almost all malware campaigns, this was about money. These devices appeared to be a smart TV and were being served falsely with advertisements – around 650 million a day to be precise. The hackers behind the Android apps were able to collect payments from advertisers who believed their commercials were being shown to real people even though they were being played in the background of an Android app without anyone seeing them.

For Android users who accidentally installed any of the 29 Android apps that ran this scam, their devices likely used more data (to display the barrage of ads). If you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network with unlimited downloads, it could cost you. Mobile data, especially over a 5G network, is usually quite expensive. Running these processes in the background likely slowed down infected smartphones as well.

Android users need to delete these apps as a DOUBLE threat to millions

One of the apps with the fraudulent code was Any Light, a seemingly simple flashlight app that smartphone owners could use to choose between different light colors. It had over 10,000 downloads from the Play Store.

Another app identified by the researchers with more than 100,000 downloads was the Sling Puck 3D Challenge. This was a pretty straightforward game where the players had to send all of their pucks to the rival’s side. Both apps worked as expected, but they were secretly designed to generate revenue by tricking advertisements into sending their advertisements to the phone.

“The operators behind the operations took advantage of the pandemic-accelerated move to digital by hiding in the noise to mislead advertisers and technology platforms into believing that ads are being served on streaming devices for consumers,” said Tamer Hassan, CEO of Human, told Forbes.

A Google spokesperson thanked Human for helping uncover the rogue apps. All 29 have now been removed from the Play Store.

These 50 Android apps are damaging your phone and need to be erased

Up to 36 apps were found on the Roku streaming platform. Available in streaming set-top boxes like the Roku Express as well as smart TV models, these apps worked the same way, convincing advertisers to show a barrage of commercials on the sets throughout the day. According to researchers, these apps couldn’t generate the same level of revenue as the Android apps.

Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET, said of the shared Android Roku scam with “Extremely clever campaigns aimed at avoiding the detection and tampering of users are rare, hence the large numbers more infected Telephones. When phones are used in this way to generate revenue for the attackers, the phones themselves are not at the same risk, but they pose a threat to the trust in the Play Store.

“However, this technique could be deployed on a larger scale, making it difficult to detect benign apps in the future. Google spends a lot of resources searching the Play Store for malicious apps that are preventing malware from getting onto people’s devices. However, frequent attacks target the device or user data, making this latest campaign all the more difficult to defend. ”

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