Malware, spyware and viruses are still very much an unfortunate part of the digital experience. So much so, you almost have to second-guess just about anything you click on or download.
Because it's so common, most folks have a good idea of what rises to the level of a red flag. But do you ever consider games and other apps on Apple or Google stores to be threats? Apple's walled garden keeps out most of the riffraff, but's not always the case with the Google Play Store. And now there are half a million users who unknowingly downloaded malware posing as games.
In fact, more than 550,000 people were duped recently into downloading one of numerous malware-filled apps by the same developer. The infected apps have since been pulled from Google Play, but were you one of those who inadvertently downloaded malware in disguise?
Malware in sheep's clothing
The discovery was made earlier this week by Lukas Stefanko, an Android malware researcher. The apps in question appeared innocent enough, just a various mix of driving simulators and racing games for vehicles from motorcycles to tractor trailers. What these 13 "simulator apps" had in common, though, was the same developer: Luiz Pinto.
The apps didn't even work once downloaded, as evidenced by multiple reviews on Google Play. Many users warned it was a virus, or was simply a scam. One person who downloaded Truck Cargo Simulator complained that his device slowed down when he was forced to download a separate app from the game. Others reported they couldn't even find the icon once installed, and Stefanko said that's because the developer hid it from view.
Don't install these apps from Google Play - it's malware.
-all together 560,000+ installs
-after launch, hide itself icon
-downloads additional APK and makes user install it (unavailable now)
-2 apps are #Trending
-no legitimate functionality
— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) November 19, 2018
Stefanko reported his findings to Google on Monday, and those apps have been pulled. He told Forbes he wasn't entirely sure what else was being installed in addition to the app itself, but speculates it may be adware-malware that clicks on ads, thus giving money to those in control of the ads - which could even be the hacker/developer of these apps.
Check for infected apps and what to do about it
If you've recently downloaded any driving simulators, double-check the developer. If you find any listed as Luiz O Pinto, delete the app(s) and run anti-virus software to make sure there are no other issues.
Here's the list of apps:
- Car Driving Simulator
- City Traffic Moto Racing
- Extreme Car Driving City
- Extreme Car Driving Racing
- Extreme Sport Car Driving
- Firefighter Fire Truck Simulator
- Hyper Car Driving Simulator
- Luxury Car Parking
- Luxury Cars SUV Traffic
- Moto Cross Extreme Racing
- SUV 4X4 Driving Simulator
- SUV City Climb Parking
- Truck Cargo Simulator
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