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Friday, 26 February 2016 15:17

Catch the clap on Google play – more than 300 apps infected with Porn Clicker

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The tragedy is that Google and Apple continue to insist that their app stores are safe, curated, and clean of malware.

Apple suffered from XcodeGhost last year and Google is now being haunted by Android/Clickers and Acecard banking apps.

ESET, a consumer and business security provider, has found more than 300 Porn clicker-type malicious apps on Google Play in just seven months, and criminals are continuing to upload further variants onto the platform. ESET detects Porn clicker Trojans, which masquerade as legitimate apps, notably games, as Android/Clickers.

“There have been many malware campaigns on Google Play, but none of the others have lasted so long or achieved such huge numbers of successful infiltrations,” explains Lukáš Štefanko, a malware researcher at ESET, who specializes in Android malware.

On average, ten new porn clickers a week bypassed Google’s security checks during this campaign. These porn clickers not only made it into the store but they also successfully compromised user devices. To get a sense of the scale, the 300 porn clickers on Google Play have on average been downloaded 3600 times each – over 1 million infections.

In the same vein as social engineering, this malware follows popular themes. The creators of these Trojans ride the wave of interest in popular applications, notably games. After installation, they generate fake clicks on advertisements to generate revenue for their operators, robbing advertisers and harming advertising platforms. From the user’s point of view, these Trojans generate a lot of internet traffic, which might have negative consequences for users on metered data plans.

The only protection is to carefully read the review system. In the case of porn clickers, this security system works well: these fake apps typically have very poor ratings so users have a fair chance of avoiding them. Unfortunately, the huge numbers of downloads show many users often don’t care about ratings.

“If an application has more negative comments than positive, it should be a warning for users to reconsider their interest in that app,” said Mr.Štefanko. “In any case, we advise all users to have up-to-date security solutions. A good security product should stop this threat from installing on the device.”

Nick FitzGerald, Senior Research Fellow at ESET Australia, says “Google Play users should always look at the ratings and reviews of apps before downloading and installing anything. Looking at the ratings and reviews of these fake apps, for example, shows you very quickly that the overwhelming response is negative. Apps with such reviews should be avoided at all costs.”

However, considering how widespread porn clickers are on the Google Play Store, reviews alone cannot be the only defense against these malicious apps. “This is not the first time these Trojans have appeared on Google Play; they are clearly part of a well-organized campaign. We should only expect the e-criminals behind this malware to continue updating their versions to find new ways to bypass Google’s security tests and to trick consumers,” he added.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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