Symantec recently spotted a new tactic being used by apps on the Google Play Store to stealthily perform ad-clicking on users’ devices. A developer known as Idea Master has published two popular apps on the Play Store in the past year, with a collective download count of approximately 1.5 million. Symantec has informed Google of the observed behavior and the apps have now been removed from the Play Store. The two apps, a notepad app (Idea Note: OCR Text Scanner, GTD, Color Notes) and a fitness app (Beauty Fitness: daily workout, best HIIT coach), are packed using legitimate packers originally developed to protect the intellectual property of Android applications. Android packers can change the entire structure and flow of an Android Package Kit (APK) file, which complicates things for security researchers who want to decipher the APK’s behavior. This also explains the developer’s ability to remain on the Play Store performing malicious acts under the radar for nearly a year before being detected.
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