Android users beware: malware mimics Free VPN, Netflix, and 60K+ more apps

Tens of thousands of Android apps are carrying adware. Experts suspect there are many more malicious applications in the wild.

Cybersecurity technology company Bitdefender said it had recently discovered a widespread malware distribution campaign. Given its scope, experts believe it to be fully automated.

The campaign aggressively pushes adware to Android devices. Bitdefender has already discovered at least 60,000 apps carrying adware — a type of software that serves you deceptive, shady, or simply annoying advertisements — and research suggests that there are many more of them in the wild.

The compromised apps can’t be found on official app stores.

“The malware's operators, however, still need to persuade users to download and install third-party apps, so they've disguised their threat on highly sought-after items you can't find in official stores, even if they were legitimate. In other situations, the apps simply mimicked the real ones published in the Play Store,” Bitdefender explained.

Threat actors mimicked the following apps to trick their victims:

  • Game cracks
  • Games with unlocked features
  • Free VPN
  • Fake videos
  • Netflix
  • Fake tutorials
  • YouTube/TikTok without ads
  • Cracked utility programs
  • Fake security programs

The malicious apps appear on search results whenever a person is looking for game cracks, free VPNs, and the other apps mentioned above.

The malware has been live since at least October, 2022. Even though threat actors push adware through the fake apps to drive revenue, they can “easily switch tactics to redirect users to other types of malware, such as banking Trojans to steal credentials and financial information or ransomware.”

With these findings in mind, the best advice for Android users is to never download apps from third parties. Always play it safe and stick to official app stores only.

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