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Criminals Play on Google Apps Store

Hackers Earn Millions with Malicious Apps

Over 20 million people are unknowingly being used as cash cows for dark web hackers, who have outsmarted consumers that regularly download Android apps from the Google Play Store.

The latest cyber research on some uploaded Apps on the popular platform indicated that at least 16 malicious clicker apps are owned and operated by criminals, who have managed to get their maliciously coded Apps distributed via Google Play.

As the official Android software platform, millions of Android device owners regularly download Apps that they think will enhance their social life. But according to security analysts at McAfee, most of the Apps downloaded to these devices do more harm than good.

In fact, these Android gadgets are being used as hosts in spam advertisements that enrich the pockets of dark web criminal hackers. McAfee researchers revealed that there is a group of 16 Apps that have been branded as “clicker applications”. These are unique adware that hackers used to install their adverts on their victims’ devices, and they usually run unnoticeable in the background. In addition, some are injected to run in invisible frames, which earn money through clicks for the owners of these malware Apps.

And while the victims are unaware that their devices are being hijacked by criminals, they would only notice that their smartphones’ performance has declined greatly. Other problems include overheating of the battery from increased usage. In some instances, some victims have received extra charges for an unexplained increase in their data usage.

Google Play Host 16 Harmful Apps

So far, the 16 malicious “clicker applications” are still being hosted on over 20 million devices, as analytical reports from the Google Play Store show that these Apps have amassed at least 20 million installations. For now, they have been removed by Google Play, after the McAfee research team shared their report with the tech giant’s security team.

The cyber analysts reported that the most harmful of the 16 Apps is the DxClean App; it has the most downloads with five million installations. And even though it has been removed from the App platform, it has received a relatively high rating with a positive overall of 4.1 out of 5 stars.

Accordingly, DxClean was coded by the hackers to do exactly the opposite of what it promotes on the App store. The research shows that the claim of being a system optimizer and cleaner that fixes system slowdowns and stops obtrusive advertisements, has show to stealthily perform the exact opposite.

Clicker Apps Stealth Attacks

The harmful Apps are coded by the hackers to register an FCM (Firebase Cloud Messaging) once downloaded. Next, the push notification messages and ongoing configuration are controlled by the threat actors from a remote HTTP website.

According to the McAfee report, once the FCM messages meet the requisite condition, the “clicker applications” are able to carry out functions based on the pre-coded parameters. Next, the Apps stealthily visit and view websites while mimicking the behavior of a real human.

Meanwhile, individuals who downloaded these “clicker applications” are unaware that they are victims of dark web hackers’ covert operations. Above all, these criminals reportedly earn millions of dollars annually from these remotely controlled malicious Apps.

By examining their tech devices for battery overheating and excessive data charges, users can prevent being unwilling victims of these fraudulent scams. They should also remove all “clicker applications” from their Android devices, especially if they are experiencing excessive battery drainage, and increased usage of mobile data, on a relevantly inactive tech gadget.

Over 20 million people are unknowingly being used as cash cows for dark web hackers, who have outsmarted consumers that regularly download Android apps from the Google Play Store.

The latest cyber research on newly uploaded Apps on the popular platform indicated that at least 16 malicious clicker apps are owned and operated by criminals that have managed to get their maliciously coded Apps on Google Play.

As the official Android software platform, millions of Android device owners downloads Apps that they think will enhance their social life. But according to security analysts at McAfee, most of the Apps downloaded to these devices do more harm than good.

In fact, these Android gadgets are being used as hosts in spam advertisements that enrich the pockets of dark web criminal hackers. The McAfee researchers revealed that there is a group of 16 Apps that have been branded as “clicker applications”, these are unique adware that hackers used to install their adverts on the victims’ devices and usually runs unnoticeable in the background. In addition, some are injected to run in invisible frames, which earn money through clicks for the owners of these malware Apps.

And while the victims are unaware that their devices are being hijacked by criminals, they would only notice that their smartphones performance have declined, and overheating of the batter from increased usage. In some instances, some victims have received extra charges for unexplained increase in their data usage.

Google Play Host 16 Harmful Apps

So far, the 16 malicious “clicker applications” are still being hosted on over 20 million devices, as analytical reports from the Google Play Store shows that these Apps have amassed at least 20 million installations. For now, they have been removed by Google Play, after the McAfee research team shared their report with the tech giant’s Android platform.

The cyber analysts reported that the most harmful of the 16 Apps is the DxClean App; it has the most downloads with five million installations. And even though it has been removed from the App platform, it has received a relatively high rating with a positive overall of 4.1 out of 5 stars.

Accordingly, DxClean was coded by the hackers to do exactly the opposite of what it promotes on the App store. The research shows that the claim of being a system optimizer and cleaner that fixes system slowdowns and stop obtrusive advertisements, stealthily performs the exact opposite.

Clicker Apps Stealth Attacks

The harmful Apps are coded by the hackers to register an FCM (Firebase Cloud Messaging) once downloaded. Next, the push notification messages and ongoing configuration are controlled by the threat actors from a remote HTTP website.

According to the McAfee report, once the FCM messages meets the requisite condition, the “clicker applications” are able to carry out functions based on the pre-coded parameters. Next, the Apps stealthily visit and view websites while mimicking the behavior of a real human.

Meanwhile, individuals who downloaded these “clicker applications” are unaware that they are the victims of the hackers’ covert operations earns millions of dollars annually from their remotely controlled malicious Apps.

By examining their tech devices for battery overheating and excessive data charges, users can prevent being victims of these fraudulent scams. They should also remove all “clicker applications” from their Android devices, especially if they are experiencing excessive battery drainage, and increased usage of mobile data, on a relevantly inactive tech gadget.

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