Google has actively been cracking down malicious apps to safeguard its more than 2.5 billion Android users worldwide. As the adoption of Internet and smartphones has grown over the years, so has the number of new apps in the Play Store. As a result, the cybercriminals are devising new techniques for injecting viruses into Android devices in order to steal users’ personal data. Surprisingly, Google removed 16 apps from the Play Store, which had downloaded by more than 20 million users worldwide. These apps were found to be consuming excessive mobile data and draining batteries on Android devices.
McAfee’s cyber security researchers recently discovered a new Clicker malware that infiltrated Google Play and affected the applications. The 16 malicious apps allegedly engaged in ad fraud by opening web pages in the background and clicking on advertisements while impersonating as a real user, according to a report.
“Once the application is opened, it downloads its remote configuration by executing an HTTP request. After the configuration is downloaded, it registers the FCM (Firebase Cloud Messaging) listener to receive push messages. At first glance, it seems like well-made android software. However, it is hiding ad fraud features behind, armed with remote configuration and FCM techniques,” McAfee wrote in a blog post.
Google removed Android Apps: List
The malicious code injected by hackers was found on some of the useful utility apps such as Flashlight, QR readers, Cameras, Unit converters, and Task managers. However, these apps have since been removed from the Play Store.
The 16 Utility apps removed from Google Play Store are:
- High-Speed Camera
- Smart Task Manager
- com.smh.memocalendar memocalendar
- Quick Note
- Currency Converter
- Instagram Profile Downloader
- Ez Notes
- com.dev.imagevault Flashlight+
Out of these 16 apps, High-Speed Camera had the maximum downloads (10 million+), followed by Smart Task Manager (5 million+), Memo calendar (1 million+ ), K-Dictionary (1 million+), BusanBus (1 million+), Flashlight+ (1 million+), Flashlight+ (500,000+), Quick Note (500,000+), Currency Convertor (500,000+), Joycode (100,000+), EzDica (100,000+), Instagram Profile Downloader (100,000+), Ez Notes (100,000+), flashlite (1,000+), Calcul (100+), Flashlight+ (100+).
The security researchers notified Google that all these 16 malicious apps are no longer available on Google Play.
In April 2022, Google had removed six antivirus apps from its Play Store for spreading Sharkbot malware.
How to protect device from malware
Android phone users are advised not to download any apps developed by unknown publishers. Make it a habit of reading the app reviews on the Google Play Store as well.
You can also download McAfee Mobile Security to protect your Android or iOS devices.