A list of 17 Android apps has now been discovered that are said to deal in unethical adware practices once installed. They reportedly hide their presence on the user's phone, and constantly show aggressive ads, leaving them frustrated. These apps were spotted on Google Play Store by research firm Bitdefender, and the firm notes that while these apps are not malicious, "the tactics they use to smuggle themselves into Google Play and dodge Google's vetting system are traditionally associated with malware." These unethical adware apps include Car Racing 2019, Screen Stream Mirroring, Transfer Data Smart, Period Tracker – Cycle Ovulation Women's, Barcode Scanner, and more.
These apps have managed to attract over 550,000 downloads in total, and Google has been notified of the issue. The report says that the "reported apps are being taken offline." These apps indulge in several unethical tactics to dodge Google's vetting system. Tactics includes waiting for 48 hours before hiding their presence on the phone, splitting the app's code into multiple resource files, and holding off displaying ads until four hours after app installation. Furthermore, these apps have not been caught by Google's security measures as these apps deliver on their promise i.e., they do what they say they do.
One such app installed, called the Car Racing 2019, is an actual racing simulator game that slyly shows pop-up ads when the user is not playing the game. These ads are displayed at sporadic intervals, with no pattern followed, making it hard to track its source. The report says that ad-showing mechanisms are scattered around the application, within multiple activities, and using modified adware SDKs. Affected users that have tried these apps have left bad reviews on Google Play Store as well. Users complain about not being able to use apps due to full screen ads, while some complain about battery drainage and hiding of apps as well. The list of these unethical adware apps include:
- Car Racing 2019
- 4K Wallpaper (Background 4K Full HD)
- Backgrounds 4K HD
- QR Code Reader & Barcode Scanner Pro
- File Manager Pro — Manager SD Card/Explorer
- VMOWO City: Speed Racing 3D
- Barcode Scanner
- Screen Stream Mirroring
- QR Code — Scan & Read a Barcode
- Period Tracker — Cycle Ovulation Women's
- QR & Barcode Scan Reader
- Wallpapers 4K, Backgrounds HD
- Transfer Data Smart
- Explorer File Manager
- Today Weather Radar
- Mobnet.io: Big Fish Frenzy
- Clock LED
We recommend not installing these apps from Google Play Store. Also practice extra caution while installing any apps from the store. Check reviews, ratings, and ensure that you have proper virus protection installed on your phone.