Acting promptly upon a warning from a researcher, Google withdrew 13 applications from its Play Store. Lukas Stefanko, a security researcher from the security solutions company ESET had warned about them in a tweet a few days ago. He had said that these apps were downloaded by about 560,000 users so far. They were malware disguised as simulation games. Interestingly, they all came to form the same developer, Luis Pinto. Two of these were even included in the trending section of the app store. Stefanko said that the apps download other APKs (Android Package Kits) and made the user install them all. He added that none of these applications have any legitimate functionality.
The following are the apps thus removed: Luxury Cars SUV Traffic Car Driving Simulator, Extreme Car Driving Racing, Moto Cross Extreme Racing, SUV City Climb Parking, Extreme Car Driving City, City Traffic Moto Racing, Extreme Sport Car Driving, Hyper Car Driving Simulator, Truck Cargo Simulator, SUV 4×4 Driving Simulator, Firefighter and Luxury Car Parking. More than having no functionality, the apps hide after installation, and the user will not see any icons to launch them. In case the user manages to launch them, they invariably crash.
More disturbingly, it is not clear how the malware act or what they really do. One thing is clear, though: they had total access to the phone’s network traffic. Digital Trends recommends switching the phone off and restarting in safe mode before uninstalling the app. Google’s spokesperson Scott Westover said in a statement that the apps violated the company’s policies and are removed from PlayStore. In 2017 Google had to remove thousands of apps from its store for the same reason. It is high time the company is more thorough and systematic in its security measures. Also, Android users are to be more careful when they download apps from Play Store. Most users download apps from platforms like this without thinking twice. They are warned again by this instance.