Google Removes 60 Apps That Display Porn Ads

Google removed 60 games from its Play Store last week after Check Point’s disclosure of a bug that displays porn ads within the games. Young children are the target audience for many of the games. The apps have already been downloaded between 3 – 7 million times, according to data gathered by Google Play.

Check Point researchers said that the malicious code, dubbed ‘AdultSwine’ hides itself within the games, and works in three potential ways.

The first is by displaying porn ads from the web that are inappropriate for children. The ads stem from mainstream ad providers that forbid their content being used in this way. The source is the malware’s own ad libraries.

The porn ads will then attempt to fool users into installing bogus ‘security apps’ by showing them a pop-up that claims their device has been infected with a virus. They will be then taken to an app in the Play Store, which is not anti-virus software and contains malicious software, or malware itself.

Finally, AdultSwine will try to incite users to register with premium services at the user’s expense; for instance, by issuing false surveys. Users will be asked to answer to four questions in order to win a free iPhone or other similar device. Following their answer, the user is prompted to enter their phone number. This is then used to register and charge them for a premium service they didn’t want.

Furthermore, Check Point said, “Apart from these current three main activities, the malicious code can use its infrastructure to broaden its goals to other purposes, such as credential theft.”

Check Point’s disclosure of the bug comes as Google faces increasing pressure to take more robust measures to protect children, with parents and advertising accusing its video site YouTube of failing to stop inappropriate content from being seen by young people. In December, YouTube said Google was increasing the staff reviewing videos to over 10,000 in response to concerns that it was relying too heavily on users to report inappropriate content.

A spokesperson for Google told the Financial Times, “We’ve removed the apps from Play, disabled the developers’ accounts, and will continue to show strong warnings to anyone that has installed them. We appreciate Check Point’s work to help keep users safe.”

Google’s security system, Google Play Protect, is meant to scan aps for malware and thus defend customers using Google’s Android operating system from malicious codes. Google also says it vets each app developer in Google Play; and the company recently wrote a blog post which went into detail on exactly how it keeps malware away from Android and the Google Play store, even when the malware attempts to fight back.

However, lurking malware is still spotted and reported only by security firms or users. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the number of apps on Google Play estimated at more than 3m, according to Statista.

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