It’s another week, and another batch of dubious Android applications ended up being removed from the Google Play Store. This time, it is a bunch of almost 60 apps that promised users free footwear, coupons, or concert tickets if you’d install and leave the apps on your phone.
However, as you can already guess, these apps actually were meant for something else: they downloaded a secret web browser and used it to carry out ad fraud. Ad fraud is displaying hidden ads you’d never get to see, but for which the app developers get paid. Also, the app users never got the free stuff they were promised.
White Ops, the security company that took notice and revealed this scam, said that in just one week back in June, these applications displayed more than 2 billion fake ads on over 65,000 Android phones that installed one or more of the apps.
Since late last year, the fake-ad campaign has conscripted infected mobile phones into a botnet that White Ops is calling ‘Terracotta,’ as reported by ZDNet not long ago. Until now, there’s been no real harm to mobile phones or smartphone owners, other than unreasonable battery drain and bandwidth consumption.
However, the fact that the apps were able to install other applications without the users knowing about this means that the Terracotta botnet could become extremely malicious on the turn of a dime.
After White Ops took notice and reported its discoveries and the name of the apps, Google has removed these applications from the Google Play Store and disabled all of them on users’ mobile devices.
To make sure that your Android phone is not infected by such scams, harmless or not, download and install an Android antivirus application that will protect you and your phone from bogus apps and other scams.