Google Play store has recently removed several apps because they were found to contain malicious software (malware).
As reported by the Daily Mail, some 13 offending apps — all of which were driving simulator games — were removed from Play Store. The apps asked the user to download an additional item on their phones called “The Game Center.”
The discovery was made by a malware researcher named Lukas Stefanko who took to his Twitter and warned people not to download the apps — two of which were trending.
Per the Daily Mail article, Stefanko not only spread the message on social media but also reported them directly to Google Security team. As soon as his complaint was reviewed, Google immediately removed all the 13 apps from Play Store.
An investigation revealed that all the apps were developed by the same person — identified as Luiz O Pinto — and came with various themes, such as luxury car racing or firefighter truck driving, the report said.
As soon as users downloaded the app and opened the game, the game closed itself immediately and its icon on the smartphone’s screen disappeared.
Per Stefanko, the apps were also detected to contain an extra item — Game Center — during download that was designed to gain “full network access to a user’s device and display ads as soon as the user would unlock the phone.
Don't install these apps from Google Play - it's malware.— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) November 19, 2018
-all together 560,000+ installs
-after launch, hide itself icon
-downloads additional APK and makes user install it (unavailable now)
-2 apps are #Trending
-no legitimate functionality
According to the report, malware is software which is deliberately designed to cause damage to a user’s device by gaining access to information or continuously show ads while the device is being used.
Mr. Stefankos estimated that the offending games were installed over 560,000 times from Google’s Play Store. He also raised the questioned as to how two of the games started trending because they don’t work.
As the matter was brought to Google’s attention, one spokesperson said that “providing a safe and secure experience for our users is our top priority.”
“We appreciate the researcher’s report and their efforts to help make Google Play more secure. The apps violated our policies and have been removed from the Play Store.”
Any user who has downloaded any of the 13 apps can get rid of the malware by factory resetting the device. Users are also advised to back up their phones if they don’t want to lose photos and text messages.
Per the report, another option for users is to delete the offending app and download an anti-malware app like Malwarebytes.
Here is a full list of the offending apps.
- Truck Cargo Simulator
- Extreme Car Driving Racing
- Hyper Car Driving Simulator
- Extreme Car Driving City
- Firefighter — Fire Truck Simulator
- Moto Cross Extreme Racing
- Car Driving Simulator
- City Traffic Moto Racing
- Extreme Sport Car Driving
- SUV 4×4 Driving Simulator
- Luxury Car Parking
- Luxury Cars SUV Traffic
- SUV City Climb Parking