Earlier this month, Google removed 85 malicious apps from its Play Store. A nefarious adware app was disguised in the form of gaming and remote control simulator apps and had been downloaded over 9 million times from Google’s app store. And now, less than a month later, a new set of apps has been spotted violating the company’s Play Store guidelines.
ESET malware researcher, Lukas Stefanko, has spotted 15 GPS-based apps operating in the Google Play store that are using the company’s mobile platform for duping Android users and earning money from them.
These apps, which include the likes of GPS Route Finder, GPS Live Street Maps and Maps GPS Navigation among others, as Stefanko pointed out in a series of tweets, don’t provide any additional service of their own to the users. Instead, they use Google Maps or its API for displaying ads to their users. What’s more, some of these apps also seek permissions to access users’ contacts, messages, and call details.
The security researcher wrote in a tweet that these apps pretend to be full-feature navigation apps, but all they do is to create a ‘useless’ layer between the user and Google Maps app.
To put it simply, once users download these apps and tap on the drive or navigate or any other option, these apps open Google Maps to help out the users. However, apart from displaying the navigational information, they also bombard users’ smartphone screens with ads. Some of them, then ask users to shell small amount to get rid of the ads.
The purpose, as you must have guessed by now, is to earn some easy money by duping users into downloading the fake apps and then forcing them to pay up to remove the ads served by this apps.
What’s astonishing is that despite the fact that some of these apps don’t even have a proper app icon, they have been downloaded over 50 million times from the Play Store, the researcher noted.
The security researcher reportedly informed Google about the fraudulent activities of these fake GPS apps about a month ago, however, the company is yet to take an action on his report.