Girls can save the world. A little girl from Prague has helped security researchers discover and flag seven scam apps on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. These apps had been downloaded over 2.4 million times and the creators of these malicious scam apps had earned more than $500,000 (that’s ₹3.7 crore approx) before being pulled down, as per SensorTower reports. These seven apps were adware scams that appeared as wallpaper, music or entertainment apps.
Surprisingly, these apps were promoted on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok and targeted kids mostly. These apps were managing to successfully stay hidden till this little girl reported a TikTok profile promoting one of the apps to Avast’s Be Safe Online project in the Czech Republic. This particular project of Avast’s educated children on how to stay safe online.
Avast looked into the apps and revealed that these aggressively displayed ads and charged users anything between $2 to $10 to remove them. The apps provided simple games that “just causes the device to vibrate, wallpapers or music” said Avast. Some of the apps were HiddenAds trojans that disguised itself as a safe application but served intrusive ads instead.
These ads were served outside the app and the original app icon was hidden so users would fail to figure out where the ads were coming from. Hidden icons also meant that these apps are hard to spot and uninstall, also these apps would show ads even when they were not being used.
Once the security researchers were alerted, They notified both Apple and Google. Google has removed the apps already, Apple is yet to respond though, according to reports.
TikTok and Instagram users with millions of followers were promoting these apps to lure people into installing them and researchers found several profiles with followers between 5,000 and 3.3 million that had promoted these apps.
One of the threat analysts at Avast commended the little girl’s presence of mind and pointed out that it was particularly concerning that these apps were being promoted on social media platforms that are popular with kids. Young kids who are mostly not aware and are unable to recognise the red flags surrounding such malicious apps and fall prey to them.