Pornographic adverts found 'hiding' in children's smartphone games on Google Play

Olive Hawkins
January 13, 2018

More than 60 apps, which included children's characters such as Lightning McQueen from Disney's Cars, were infected with malware that sent malicious, adult-themed adverts to smartphones upon which the games were installed. That is because this feature will not work on iPhone and non Android users. All of those affected apps were available for download on Google's Play Store up until recently.

After being advised about the malware, in addition to removing the apps from the Google Play store, Check Point said Google took "prompt action" to disable the developers' accounts, and will continue to show strong warnings to any users that still have the apps installed. Check Point notes that the bug's configurations also allow it to hide its icon to hinder potential removal.

One pop-up presented to victims displayed an image of Kim Kardashian posing in bed, promising viewers "new leaked pictures" if they clicked a "subscribe" button.

The malware also sought to trick users into installing fake security apps, and it could open the door for other attacks such as theft of user credentials, Check Point said. AdultSwine then uses this information to register the device owner's phone number with premium SMS services.

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Google does have a safety feature called Google Play Protect, which checks apps when you download them and periodically scans your device for harmful apps to remove them. Although to make a Duo call you have to install the Google Duo App.

The malware, dubbed AdultSwine by security shop Check Point, was found in apps like "Drawing Lessons Lego Star Wars", "Fidget spinner for Minecraft" and "Spinner Toy for Slither", along with a large number of Android games.

Such exclusively family-based apps are checked manually by Google for malware and ad content, according to those familiar with the situation, but the AdultSwine code was put out for general release.

Update 12/01/2017 12:55pm ET: Updated with additional comment from Google.

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