Google had to remove more than five dozen Android games from the Google Play Store because while they were aimed at children, they featured advertising that promoted adult websites. According to cybersecurity firm Check Point Research, these games had been infected with malicious code by a company named, apparently, “AdultSwine” who targets mobile games. In addition to displaying pornographic content to underage users—which, by the way, were not in the least related to the subject of these children’s apps and games—the code from these apps was also trying to mislead users to allow access to messaging. If you did fall for this trick, the malicious code would start sending SMS messages that target premium and/or highly expensive services—at the owner’s expense, of course.
Or, rather, at the expense of the account owner: so, the parent’s expense.
Also, if the ads in these games/apps were not displaying adult content—or attempting to direct you to adult websites—they might present fraudulent security warnings that would attempt to persuade you to install new “security tools” that are just as problematic. You, know: “scareware.”
While it looks like the library of potentially problematic apps was only about 70, data from Google’s digital marketplace indicates that these apps have been downloaded between 3 million and 11.5 million times (depending on the game or app, of course). As such, even though Google has deleted these problematic apps from the Play store, the malware will still persist on the phones or devices where they have been downloaded by users.
In a statement, Google has said, “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.”
Check Point researcher Daniel Padon comments, “We have a good working relationship with Google’s security team.” Furthermore, the company advises they are “struggling to keep certain malware outside the App store” since some nasty codes can only be found through dynamic analysis of actions with the real context of the app, and that is hard to do.
Check Point adds, “‘AdultSwine’ and other similar malware will likely be continually repeated and imitated by hackers. Users should be extra vigilant when installing apps, particularly those intended for use by children.”