This may sound like a jumbled assortment of apps, but they all appeared in a blog post by Avast, a security firm providing mobile security and anti-virus software. According to the post, these apps contain adware, and considering they’re available in the Google Play store, they’re available to millions of users. In fact, the Durak card game app has already been downloaded between five million to 10 million times, with about 43,000 user ratings, according to Google Play.
Here’s how these apps work. When a user downloads them, they appear to work completely normally and behave like regular gaming apps. However, after a device reboot, the app starts to send the user different ads that point to fake problems, like their device being infected, out of date, or flooded with pornography.
While that isn’t actually the case, users who are then prompted to take action and then approve are taken to fake app stores, places that try to send text messages on their behalf, or to other apps that collect a lot of personal data.
For adware, that kind of behaviour is pretty par for the course. However, what’s more intriguing is that users sometimes get sent to legitimate security apps on Google Play, wrote Filip Chytry, the author of Avast’s blog post.
“These security apps are, of course, harmless, but would security providers really want to promote their apps via adware? Even if you install the security apps, the undesirable ads popping up on your phone don‘t stop. This kind of threat can be considered good social engineering,” he wrote.
“Most people won‘t be able to find the source of the problem and will face fake ads each time they unlock their device. I believe that most people will trust that there is a problem that can be solved with one of the apps advertised ‘solutions’ and will follow the recommended steps, which may lead to an investment into unwanted apps from untrusted sources.”
Using the Google Play to distribute adware is definitely breaking Google’s rules. The problem is, with a sprawling app catalogue and millions of users who trust others’ downloads, as in the case of the Durak app, it can be hard for Android users to figure out which apps to trust, even if they’re housed in the Google Play store.