Cybersecurity researchers have issued a warning to smartphone users about a series of malicious apps that have been downloaded millions of times from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
Researchers from Human Security Satori’s threat intelligence team raised the alarm in a new report that revealed around 80 different Android apps were involved in an ad fraud operation.
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The cyberattack dates back to 2019, but experts believe the threat has expanded since then, with nine apps now linked to the App Store.
The threat involves cyber criminals using bots to exploit ad platforms and advertisers to defraud people.
More than 13 million downloads of the applications have been registered and Human Security warns that the attack continues.
“HUMAN and the Satori team continue to pursue the operation and its perpetrators,” he said, adding that the apps have since been removed from app stores.
The advice for smartphone users with any of the apps listed below is: “delete them”.
“Although HUMAN is monitoring threat actors, they may update apps to change how they work, so the best option is to remove the apps,” the researchers said.
“Consider reducing your risk of running dangerous apps by considering the source of the app and the trustworthiness of the brands involved.
“Secondary markets, sideloaded or ‘cracked’ apps can be at much higher risk.”
Malicious apps on the Apple App Store
- loot the castle (com.loot.castle.fight.battle)
- run bridge (com.run.bridge.run)
- shiny gun (com.shinning.gun.ios)
- 3D racing legend (com.racing.legend.like)
- rope runner (com.rope.runner.family)
- wood sculptor (com.wood.sculptor.cutter)
- firewalls (com.fire.wall.poptit)
- ninja critical strike (wger.ninjacriticalhit.ios)
Malicious apps on the Google Play Store
- rotate rotate (com.roll.turn.song.wusi.pt) – 1,000,000+ downloads
- smash car (com.crush.car.fly.delivery.lingjiu) – 1,000,000+ downloads
- Superhero-Save the world! (com.asuper.man.playmilk) – 1,000,000 downloads
- Find 10 differences (com.different.ten.spotgames) – 1,000,000 downloads
- dinosaur legend (com.huluwagames.dinosaur.legend.play) – 1,000,000 downloads
- one line drawing (com.one.line.drawing.stroke.yuxi) – 1,000,000 downloads
- shooting master (com.shooter.master.bullet.puzzle.huahong) – 1,000,000 downloads
- Talent Trap – NEW (com.talent.trap.stop.all) – 1,000,000 downloads
- Find 5 differences – New (com.find.five.sutil.differences.spot.new) – 1,000,000
- Helicopter Attack – NEW (com.helicopter.attack.shoot.sanba) – 500,000+ downloads
- arrow coins (com.helicopter.attack.shoot.sanba) – 500,000 downloads
- parking master (com.ekfnv.docjfltc.parking.master) – 500,000 downloads
- Shoot It: Using Pistol (com.bullet.shoot.fight.gtommm.tom) – 500,000 downloads
- super scales (com.chop.slice.flake2020) – 500,000 downloads
- five star slice (com.five.star.slice) – 500,000 downloads
- sand drawing (com.sand.drawing.newfight) – 500,000 downloads
- Mr Dinosaur: Play with your Dino (com.topggame.facego.finger.crazy.dino) – 500,000 downloads
- Sliding Track New (com.track3d.sliding.new) – 500,000 downloads
- peter shoot (com.ltc.peter.shoot.tslgame) – 100,000+ downloads
- thief king (com.ltcking.thief.game.tsl) – 100,000+ downloads
- Turn: Letter Roll (come.letter.roll.race) – 100,000+ downloads
- relax cash (com.tycmrelx.cash) – 100,000+ downloads
- lady runs (com.lady.dress.run.sexylady) – 100,000 downloads
- 3D magic brush (com.magic.brush.gamesly) – 100,000 downloads
- Shake Shake Sheep (com.ldle.merge.free.coinspiggy) – 100,000 downloads
- Combination of numbers: color tiles (com.yigegame.jyfsmnq.gg) – 100,000 downloads
- Ztime: Earn Cash Rewards Easily (com.pocky.ztime) – 100,000 downloads
- Lucky Wings Lottery Scratchers (com.free.scratchers.luckywings) – 100,000 downloads
- Shake Shake Pig (com.ldle.merge.free.coinspiggy) – 100,000 downloads
- lucky money tree (com.ldle.merge.lucky.moneytree) – 100,000 downloads
- run and dance (com.tap.run.and.dance) – 100,000 downloads
- Beat Kicker New (com.beat.kicker.two.game) – 100,000 downloads
- 3D fill color (com.cube.fill.color.paint.turn.fei) – 100,000 downloads
- draw live (com.draw.live.milipop)- 100,000 downloads
- Draw 1 stroke (com.draw.one.line.stroke.xipi) – 100,000 downloads
- unease cubes (com.fidget.cubes.feel.like) – 100,000 downloads
- girls fight (com.girls.fight.fly) – 100,000 downloads
- Ninja assassin (com.knifeninja.assassin.dltc) – 100,000 downloads
- Shooting puzzle 2020 (com.my.bullet.shooting.man.hunter.youxi) – 100,000 downloads
- parkour pulley (com.pul.parkour.broller) – 100,000 downloads
- Chop flake 3D model (com.slice.chop.superslice3d) – 100,000 downloads
- Fantasy Weapon (com.weapon.fantasy.games) – 100,000 downloads
- extreme bike racing (com.bike.extreme.raceing.bikegames) – Over 50,000 downloads
- Spiral Maker 3D Player (com.player.spiral.maker.d3) – 50,000+ downloads
- scratch carnival (com.scratchers.jackpot.luckypiggy) – 50,000 downloads
- billionaire scratch (com.free.tickets.scratchers.Billionaire) – 50,000 downloads
- Lucky Star: Scratch and win lottery (com.free.tickets.scratchers.LuckyLotto) – 50,000 downloads
- balloon shooter (com.balloon.shooter.play) – 50,000 downloads
- music shoot (com.ltcmusical.fun2021) – 50,000 downloads
- cut slices (com.lvdiao.chop.slices.chef) – 50,000 downloads
- ninja slice (com.slice.masked.games) – 50,000 downloads
- Work now! (com.work.now.slack) – 50,000 downloads
- full draw (com.ltcdraw.complete.fly) – 10,000+ downloads
- draw a war (com.draw.war.army) – 10,000+ downloads
- Match 3 Tiles (com.blocks.tile.matching) – 10,000+ downloads
- Match Cube 2048 – Earn Cash (com.cube.merge.shooter) – 10,000+ downloads
- throw worm (com.pull.bugs.worm) – 10,000 downloads
- Shoot Dummy – Earn Paypal Cash & Rewards (com.shoot.dummy.fast.speed.linger) – 10,000
- bottle jump (com.bottle.jump.flip.challenge.fun) – 10,000 downloads
- corn scraper (com.corn.scraper.cut.pipe.siling) – 10,000 downloads
- idle lumbermaker (com.idle.wood.maker.gametwo) – 10,000 downloads
- Pop Girls Schoolgirl (com.pop.girls.schooler)- 10,000 downloads
- romy fever (com.romy.rushrun)- 10,000 downloads
- spear hero (com.spear.super.man.hero) – 10,000 downloads
- Hide Draw (com.hiding.drawltc.games) – 5000+ downloads
- downhill race (com.downhill.race.redbull) – 5000+ downloads
- Jackpot Scratcher-Real Win (com.physicswingsstudio.JackpotScratchers) – 5000 downloads
- Dig road balls (com.dig.road.balls.play.games.ygygame) – 5000 downloads
- Crowd Battle: Fight the bad guys (com.crowd.battle.goamy) – 5000 downloads
- design on the road (com.ltcdesign.nroad) – 1000+ downloads
- rescue master (com.rescue.master.gear.mechanics.wushi) – 1000+ downloads
- Lucky Scratchers: Lottery Card (com.lotto.bingo.lucky.scratchcard) – 1000 downloads
- pop star boo (com.boostar.boo.popstar)- 1000 downloads
- Draw Complete A (com.darwa.completea.ltca)- 1000 downloads
- war in painting (com.painting.war.inpaper) – Over 100 downloads
- Rush 2048: 3D Shooter Cubes (com.rushcube.puzzle.block) – 100 downloads
- automatic seal chamber (com.stac.amper.qweaf) – Over 100 downloads
- meet the camera (com.magicvcam.hdmeet.cam008) – 0 downloads
Once downloaded, malicious apps affect other apps to record fake views of digital ads and can even track user data.
Apps can also cause ads to appear out of context, such as on a user’s home screen, where it shouldn’t show, and play hidden ads that users can’t detect.
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