Researchers spotted numerous malicious photo blur apps targeting Android users. These apps actually constituted a dedicated campaign targeting users with adware. While Google removed the apps, make sure you don’t have them on your devices too.
Photo Blur Apps Delivering Malware
Reportedly, the WhiteOps Satori Threat Intelligence and Research Team found multiple Android apps exhibiting malicious activities. Sharing the details in a post, the researchers stated that they caught 29 different malicious Photo Blur Apps. These apps targeted users with adware and bypassed security checks.
WhiteOps dubbed the whole campaign as CHARTREUSEBLUR. It’s because most of the apps constituting the adware campaign had the word ‘BLUR’ in their names. These apps impersonated photo-editing tools to blur images. However, they actually exhibited blurry security measures.
In their report, the researchers presented a detailed analysis of one of these malicious apps ‘Square Photo Blue App’. They found multiple nasty attributes with this app. For instance, it used to hide the app icon upon reaching the target device.
Then, further analysis of the app’s obfuscated code revealed that the app uses a three-stage payload evolution. Whereas, the obfuscation seems a method to evade detection.
As the researchers began unpacking the app, they could eventually unveil the actual payload in stage 3. Here, they could witness the actual codes responsible for generating OOC (out of context) ads. These ads appear after almost every activity the victim user performs on the devices. From unlocking the phone to uninstalling any other app, to charging the device or switching between WiFi and cellular data, ads could appear anywhere.
Whereas, the app in itself exhibited no useful features for the user.
Google Removed The Apps
The researchers noted in their study a sudden spike in the malicious campaign after May 26, 2020. Together, these apps had around 3.5 million downloads, which means that the adware campaign actually targeted millions of users. These apps even had bad customer reviews on the Play Store, where the victims clearly mentioned about the ads.
Upon discovering the campaign, the researchers reached out to Google who then removed the apps from Play Store.
Nonetheless, the threat isn’t over since the apps might still exist on users’ devices. This link lists all the apps found malicious in the researchers’ study. Hence, all Android users should review the list to see if they have any of these apps running on their devices. If detected, make sure to get rid of such apps at the earliest.
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