Google Play takes down 63 children's apps after malware discovered

Gwen Vasquez
January 13, 2018

A number of Android apps on Google Play that could have been downloaded by children have been serving up an unwelcome surprise: pornographic ads.

Following an investigation by security firm Check Point, Google has deleted 60 games from the Play Store that were infected with a malicious bug, which among other things injected pornographic ads into games targeted at children. A full list of apps can be found here. Some of the apps include those that have been downloaded over 1 million times, like Five Nights Survival Craft and McQueen Car Racing Game, which is based on the Disney Pixarcharacter from the film Cars.

In an email, Check Point said Google is usually quite successful when blocking malware on the Play Store.

According to Android Police, the option to call users is included in the latest update, with an "Instant App" like experience called App Preview Messaging that's part of Google Play services letting fellow Android users answer calls through Duo. "I did and my son opened it and a bunch off thilthy [sic] hardcore porn pictures popped up". It can throw up a fake virus warning screen and get the user to download cleaning software that would more effectively pwn the phone, trick people into sending premium SMS messages with the offer to win a prize or just throw up websites aimed at the amateur gynecologist.

Google moved immediately to kick those apps out of Google Play. "We appreciate Check Point's work to help keep users safe", said the spokesperson.

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The inappropriate ads being displayed come from two main sources, Check Point said: mainstream ad providers and the malicious code's own ad library (where the porn ads stem from).

When the malicious code is installed onto your phone, it waits for the user to unlock the device to start the malicious activity.

The malware also attempts to lure unsuspecting patrons into registering for fake premium services. "Users should be extra vigilant when installing apps, particularly those intended for use by children".

Google does have a safety feature called Google Play Protect, which checks apps when you download them and periodically scans your device for harmful apps to remove them.

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