Another day, another troubling report published by yet another cybersecurity firm to warn Android users of a newly discovered danger lurking in the Play Store shadows, as well as to urge anyone who may have fallen victim to the “adware wave” of the last few months to swiftly get rid of this persistent scourge.
Of course, the malicious adware phenomenon is hardly new, having been omnipresent on the world’s most popular mobile software platform for as long as we can remember, but the 21 Android apps named and shamed by antivirus developer Avast earlier this week are in the spotlight (for all the wrong reasons) for the very first time.
Delete these ad-infested apps ASAP
Before we even go into the reasons why you should stay as far away as possible from the nearly two dozen misleading Google Play titles pinpointed by Avast’s researchers after carefully studying their behavior and combing through hundreds of user reviews, the most important thing to do is undoubtedly list the 21 apps for the whole world to see. Without further ado, here they all are, ordered by popularity:
- Shoot Them
- Crush Car
- Rolling Scroll
- Helicopter Attack – New
- Assassin Legend – 2020 New
- Helicopter Shoot
- Rugby Pass
- Flying Skateboard
- Iron it
- Shooting Run
- Plant Monster
- Find Hidden
- Find 5 Differences – 2020 New
- Rotate Shape
- Jump Jump
- Find the Differences – Puzzle Game
- Sway Man
- Desert Against
- Money Destroyer
- Cream Trip – New
- Props Rescue
Now that you know what to avoid, you might be wondering exactly what’s wrong with these Android apps, the vast majority of which do not look malicious or highly suspicious at first glance, at least to the untrained eyes of many regular mobile content consumers.
The decidedly trained eyes of a number of Avast cybersecurity experts who scanned the Play Store for red flags for the third time in just four months quickly noticed that a whole bunch of reviews for the apps listed above mentioned YouTube ads promoting a vastly different functionality from the one users actually got upon downloading these titles.
After grabbing people’s attention with deceitful ads, the shady developers of the 21 malicious games identified in this new report would start bombarding their customers with more ads, many of which popped up outside of the apps themselves, making the culprits incredibly hard to single out.
Fortunately, that’s where Avast comes in, aiming to help you regain full control of your infected smartphone and exterminate some pesky and often extremely intrusive ads making your life miserable by delaying or outright blocking the completion of important tasks, as well as generally slowing down your system and greatly impacting the overall user experience.
How to stay safe in the long run
First of all, you should absolutely never rely solely on Google to keep you protected from adware, ransomware, spyware, and all those other types of trojans and viruses frequently wreaking havoc on the official Play Store.
The search giant is simply not doing enough to prevent these threats from getting in and especially to eliminate them without mercy or delay. Case in point, a whopping 15 of the 21 apps listed above are still alive and kicking at the time of this writing, although for what it’s worth, at least that number has been reduced from 19 when the report was originally published.
Another thing you shouldn’t rely on is an app’s installation count. The number of Google Play downloads is not always representative of an app’s reliability, as proven by the over eight million times these 21 apps had been installed on mobile devices around the world when Avast disclosed its latest findings. In the meantime, Rolling Scroll and Helicopter Attack – New appear to have joined Shoot Them and Crush Car in the million+ download club, so yeah, seemingly popular apps can be dangerous too.
Instead, what you should most definitely pay attention to before installing an app on your Android phone are the user reviews. Anything that has a lot of 5-star and 1-star ratings is probably malicious. Anything with an average of less than 3 stars is either dangerous or not worth your time.
Another potential red flag is a developer account with only one app to its name, which could signal that the person or company behind what you’re trying to download actually runs multiple accounts, thus protecting their nefarious business against Google raids that sometimes end with deleted profiles.
Unfortunately, you can never be 100 percent protected against all forms of Android malware, no matter how careful you are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to at least avoid the most obvious security threats out there.