Pornographic malware found in Android apps for kids

The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration

The apps were downloaded between three and seven million times before the infection was caught. Google reveals changes to rein in fake news Dubbed "AdultSwine", the malware also would try to trick users to deploy fake security apps and urge users to register for premium services.

Google has deleted several dozen apps - many of them aimed at kids - after a security firm found that they contain malware that could show pornographic pop-up ads.

In an email, Check Point said Google is usually quite successful when blocking malware on the Play Store. After a download, the app only had to wait for a reboot, or for the user to unlock their screen, to start sending information back to a command and control server, which would then serve the ads.

The researchers also discovered that the malicious code can move laterally within the phone's infrastructure, opening the door for other attacks, such as user password theft. That gets machine checked and, despite the Chocolate Factory's AI virus-hunting protestations, past experience and research suggests malware writers are finding Google's malware seeking bots easy to evade.

Such exclusively family-based apps are checked manually by Google for malware and ad content, according to those familiar with the situation, but the AdultSwine code was put out for general release.

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In a statement to the Financial Times, a spokesperson for Google said the company will notify users that they've downloaded the malicious apps.

It might, for example, show an ad claiming "the user is entitled to win an iPhone by simply answering four short questions", Check Point explained. A full list of apps can be found here.

The scareware "virus removal" tool has also been removed from Google Play for using inappropriate marketing tactics to drive installs.

"Due to the pervasive use of mobile apps, AdultSwine and other similar malicious apps are likely to be continually repeated and imitated by hackers", the researchers said in a blog post.

In some cases this link is merely to an advertisement, but it could also lead to whatever social engineering scheme the attackers likes.

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