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Taken for a ride: Malicious driving game apps installed half a million times

A malicious actor recently smuggled 13 malicious apps disguised as driving simulator games into Google Play, resulting in more than 560,000 installations before they were removed.

Each of the sketchy apps was found to download and launch in the background an additional malicious APK, titled "Game Center." This APK hides its own icon and displays ads whenever an infected device is unlocked, according to Lukas Stefanko, malware researcher at ESET, who revealed the scam in a series of tweets on Nov. 19.

The baker's dozen of adware apps have "no legitimate functionality," added Stefanko. They were all developed by "Luis O Pinto" and pretended to offer the experience of virtually driving sports cars, motorcycles, fire trucks and other assorted vehicles. Two of the apps were trending.

Stefanko said that he disclosed the issue to Google, and at least one news outlets has reported that Google has since banished the offending apps.

In the last two days, Stefanko has tweeted several more alerts of fake apps that were reported to Google Play, including nine malicious kids coloring apps that collectively were installed 23,000 times, and nine fake loan apps with over 40,000 downloads between them. 

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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