If you’re seeing scary ads claiming your Android phone is infected with malware, you might have installed a legitimate looking app that contains dodgy ad-serving software.
Google is in the process of pulling down some of over 150 Android apps that one security firm claims contain an advertising software developer kit (SDK) that slurps private data and serves pesky ads.
In the scheme of things, annoying ads are a minor mobile threat but nonetheless fall in to the ‘potentially unwanted’ app category. Besides that, when you install an app from Google Play, you don’t expect in-app ads to violate Google's developer terms and display themselves on the Android system interface. But that’s what 155 apps on Google Play will do, as well as scaring the user into buying apps that resolve a bogus malware infection, according to Russian security firm Dr Web.
The antivirus vendor estimates that 2.8 million Android devices have installed apps that contain the offending SDK. The apps include live wallpapers, photo editors, radio apps, and more.
According to Dr Web, Google has removed some of the apps it reported as malicious but not others.
“Thus far Doctor Web’s security researchers have registered 155 dangerous applications, which have already been downloaded over 2.8 million times. Although the company informed Google as to which applications contain Android.Spy.305.origin, many of them are still available for download,” Dr Web said in a statement.
Over half of the apps it counts related to country-specific versions of an app called Doril Radio. Details the trojan collects include the Android user’s email account, a list of installed apps, unique device identifiers, mobile network operator, the name of the trojanised app, and the app developer’s ID.
That Google hadn’t removed the apps already is par for the course when reporting Android malware, according to a Dr Web spokesman.
“It seems that apps are still in place and we've got no answer from Google, but it's nothing special since they generally don't answer and apparently just review the reports and take down apps if deemed inappropriate - and it usually takes time,” Kirill Kozhevnikov, Dr Web’s press officer said.
“As for developers themselves, we didn't trace them - most apps just have some gmail account as a contact info and no websites or anything, and trying to find them should probably be something for Google to do if it's important enough for them. They look absolutely generic and are probably unreachable. One thing is certain - it's not just an innocent mistake on their part, so it's not like getting to them and asking them nicely to remove adware would fix anything.”
The offending apps come from seven key developers, including MaxMitek Inc, Fatty Studio, Gig Mobile, TrueApp Lab, Sigourney Studio, Doril Radio.FM, Finch Peach Mobile Apps, and Mothrr Mobile Apps, according to Dr Web.