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More than 60,000 Malicious Android Apps Hidden in Cracks, Free VPNs and Unlocked Full Programs, Bitdefender Finds


June 08, 2023

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More than 60,000 Malicious Android Apps Hidden in Cracks, Free VPNs and Unlocked Full Programs, Bitdefender Finds

Bitdefender security researchers identified an aggressive malware campaign in which attackers used more than 60,000 unique Android apps to spread the threat.

App Anomaly Detection is the name of the latest technology implemented by Bitdefender in its Mobile Security for Android app. The technology’s main goal is to look out for certain app behaviors that would be considered malicious and to immediately inform the user of a possible problem.

Malicious apps can end up on a device via several scenarios, including updates or even a user intentionally bypassing warnings during installation. Whichever the case, Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android now has a new layer of protection that is constantly on the lookout for misbehaving apps.

Once Bitdefender enabled the new technology for all users, this new adware campaign became immediately visible. More than 60,000 unique apps have been identified, and more are likely still in the wild. Given the sheer number of apps, the entire operation is likely automated.

The adware-ridden apps are not available on Google Play or other official stores, but the attackers found another way to persuade people to install them. It turns out that many Android users look elsewhere for cracked games, unlocked apps, free VPN solutions, YouTube with no ads, and even fake security programs.

People try to install these apps, but the installation apparently fails. In reality, the adware is successfully installed, and it soon contacts the servers. The ads begin to show a few days later, so the users might not make the connection.

Making matters worse, these malicious apps use a few clever techniques to disguise themselves on devices, including ensuring they don’t have names or icons and are always at the bottom of the installed apps.

While the adware is a nuisance, we can’t discount other risks. This campaign aims to make money by forcibly displaying ads, but that doesn’t mean the operators couldn’t turn a switch one day and serve much more dangerous ads that redirect users to malware.

The best way to stay safe is to download apps only from official stores and use a security application that can detect these types of threats.




Silviu is a seasoned writer who followed the technology world for almost two decades, covering topics ranging from software to hardware and everything in between.

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