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17 Trojan Apps on Google Play that can steal personal user data: Avast Reported

Initially, Avast researchers found 47 apps relating to the HiddenAds Trojan family, although Google allegedly removed 30 of these.

Google Play is said to have more than 17 Trojan Apps that could be part of a Trojan family identified as HiddenAdverts reported by Avast. The apps are found to be part of a more extensive promotional campaign by HiddenAdverts which initially focused on users in India and Southeast Asia.

Nevertheless, Avast researchers team has found that such apps are Trojan Apps on Google Play that can steal personal user data. Avast has reported that the Trojan apps are developed as video games, but programmed to display misleading advertising and can steal user’s data. The researchers found that the Trojan apps had the versatility to shield their icons from the affected gadgets and display scheduled advertisements that could not be skipped.

The Avast researchers team initially identified approximately 47 apps related to the HiddenAds family of Trojan. However, Google removed 30 of suspicious apps when the Avast (antivirus company) received the report.

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“Once the user downloads the app, a timer starts within the app. The user is allowed to play the game for a set period of time, after which the timer triggers the hide icon feature of the app,” published by Avast Threat Operations Analyst Jakub Vávra, in a blog post. “Once the icon is hidden, the app starts to display ads throughout the device without needing further actions from the user.

Many of the Trojan apps found by the Avast researchers’ team also tend to open the browser to display users’ intrusive advertisements. Since after a specific period, the apps cover their icon, their customers cannot learn the significance of the ads they see on their mobile screens. That said, the Trojan apps can still be deleted through the device’s app manager.

The Avast team have learned that each of the apps discovered had a different author with a standard email address mentioned on Google Play. “The Terms of Service are similar across the discovered apps, probably pointing to one actor’s active campaign,” added Vávra.

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The apps that bring the Trojan HiddenAds were downloaded over by 15 Million users in total. Find Hidden Differences, Skate Board-New, Tony Shoot-NEW, Stacking Guys and Spot Hidden Differences are some of the most downloaded titles that were alive at the time of publishing this article.

The researcher’s study discovered the most prevalence of the HiddenAds campaign through the apps in Brazil, Turkey and India. It further extended across several areas, however.

An email was sent to Google for further details but did not receive a response yet.

It’s not the first time that Trojan Apps on Google Play are discovered.

This is notably not the first time when Google Play is found to have the apps that have the potential to steal user information. In July last year, Avast detected apps that were installed a combined 1,30,000 times with the nature of stalking users. Bot mitigation company White Ops in its research paper published earlier this month also revealed that Google removed at least 38 apps from its Google Play store that infested Android devices with out-of-context advertisements.

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Importantly, it’s not the first time that Trojan Apps on Google Play are being discovered having the ability to steal user data. Avast found applications that had been activated a total 1,30,000 times in July of last year with the essence of consumers hacking. White Ops, a bot management service, also disclosed in its research article released earlier this month that Google banned at least 38 apps from its Google Play store that littered Android devices with out-of-context ads.

Steps to stay away from such Trojan Apps on Google Play

Avast has urged users to look carefully for such apps request permissions while installing them on their smartphones. It is also essential that you take some patience to study the privacy policy and the terms of service of the installed apps. Additionally, users are advised to avoid installing the apps which have received a significant number of negative feedback.

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