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Security & privacy

Delete this app! 10 million devices vulnerable

It can be tricky to figure out what an app actually does before you download it. While the description can give you some information, they are not always as accurate as they should be.

Most of us have downloaded an app or two that doesn’t work as described. Problems with malware, annoying ads or expensive subscriptions can make promising apps unusable, and they’re deleted just as fast as they were downloaded. Need some suggestions for good Android apps? Tap or click here for 8 must-have Android apps you’ll use again and again.

And, on occasion, a good app will get an update that makes it worthless. That’s what happened to a popular Android app recently. This one was legit and has been around for years, but a recent update caused some issues for millions of devices. Here’s what happened.

Here’s the backstory

If you’re an Android user who’s been having issues with your phone recently, you may want to check your apps. According to Malwarebytes, the Barcode Scanner app from Lavabird LTD has been causing Android users’ major issues after a recent update rolled out.

It’s a QR code reader and a barcode generator, a useful utility for mobile devices. Until this issue, it had been a popular app with over 10 million downloads. That’s no longer the case, though. Barcode Scanner has turned into a malicious app after a recent update.

Source: Malwarebytes

The issue was first noted in December of 2020. That’s when Android owners started noticing ads opening via their default browser with no prompting by the user. Even more perplexing, none of them had installed any new apps.

Malwarebytes determined the issue was stemming from an update to Barcode Scanner, installed by all of the Android owners experiencing this issue. The update rolled out in late 2020 and led to the app pushing adware and malicious code, letting it utilize the browser to open ads unprompted.

What happened?

According to Malwarebytes, this isn’t a case of aggressive advertising. It appears that malicious code was added during the app’s update. Even more troubling? The new code used heavy obfuscation to avoid detection. 

“Ad SDKs can come from various third-party companies and provide a source of revenue for the app developer. It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Malwarebytes noted. “Users get a free app, while the app developers and the ad SDK developers get paid. But every once in a while, an ad SDK company can change something on their end and ads can start getting a bit aggressive.”

These issues prompted Malwarebytes to raise the red flag. Barcode Scanner was subsequently removed from the Google Play Store, but that doesn’t remove the app from your phone. If you downloaded it before the app’s removal, you’ll need to take some steps to delete it from your phone.

What to do if you have this app on your phone

If you have Barcode Scanner from Lavabird LTD on your device, you need to delete it right away. Keeping it on your phone opens you up to potential issues, including annoying ads opening via your browser.

To delete this and other apps:

  • Open the Google Play Store app
  • Tap Menu > My apps & games
  • Tap the Barcode Scanner app
  • Tap Uninstall

You should also remove any apps that you aren’t using regularly to avoid other issues like these. Barcode Scanner’s problem could happen with other apps during updates, so don’t clutter your phone with stuff you aren’t using. If you’ve downloaded useless apps in the past, take the time to clean up your device.

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