New adware affecting 238 apps on Google Play Store threatens to make Android phones unusable

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Mobile security firm Lookout revealed that the affected apps with BeiTaAd adware bombard the affected phones with ads and renders them nearly unusable.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • BeiTaAd adware is affectings apps on Google Play Store.
  • 238 Play Store apps have been affected by the adware.
  • These apps have been downloaded over 440 million times from Play Store.

Security researchers from the mobile security firm Lookout have revealed that nearly 238 apps with over 440 million downloads on the Google Play Store have been infected by an adware called BeiTaAd that bombards the affected phones with ads and renders them nearly unusable.

BeiTaAd, as the mobile security firm wrote, “is a well-obfuscated advertising plugin” that is hidden within a number of popular apps in Google Play Store, including the popular keyboard app TouchPal. This plugin, once installed via the apps, displays ads on the users’ lock screen, triggers video and audio ads even while the phone is asleep, and displays out-of-app ads that interfere with users’ interaction with other apps on their smartphones.

All the apps infected by BeiTaAd adware have been released by a Shanghai, China based mobile internet company CooTek. CooTek is the company behind TouchPal and several health and fitness apps.

BeiTaAd adware doesn’t get active immediately after the infected app is installed. “These ads do not immediately bombard the user once the offending application is installed, but become visible at least 24 hours to 14 days after the application is launched,” the mobile security firm noted in its blog. Once active, the BeiTaAd adware not only clutters the affected phones, but in some cases it also made it difficult for users to receive calls or interact with other apps.

Meanwhile, Google reacting to the matter has either removed the infected apps or updated them removing the code for the BeiTaAd plugin.

Notably, this is not the first time that infected apps have slipped on Google’s app store. Back in April this year, Google removed 46 apps from Play Store for committing ad fraud. Earlier this year, the company had also removed 112 risky apps from the Play Store in a span of just two months.

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