TikTok User Helps Researchers Identify and Take Down Adware Apps on iOS, Android
A young kid helped researchers identify adware on Google and Apple app stores
Researchers said a tip from a young girl helped them discover adware, available at exorbitant prices, which was lurking around in iOS and Android smartphone apps. The adware apps had a combined 2.4 million downloads on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store. According to a report by ArsTechnica these apps were posing as apps for entertainment, wallpaper images, or music downloads. The report further said that the icons of such apps were hidden after installation, in order to prevent users from uninstalling them. According to SensorTower, users would be charged anything from $2 (Rs. 147 by direct conversion) to $10 (Rs. 735 by direct conversion) for an app and generated a revenue of more than $500,000 (Rs. 3.67 crores by direct conversion).
The apps were found by a girl on TikTok who stumbled upon a profile that was promoting what appeared to be an abusive app. She reported it to the Czech Republic online safety program called Be Safe Online. The report said that after this tip, researchers at Avast found 11 more apps running on both Android and iOS. The apps were being promoted on TikTok and Instagram, according to the ArsTechnica report and according to Avast, made misleading claims about their functionality, served ads outside of the app, or hid the app icon after the app was installed - all in violation of the terms and services of the app markets.
Further, the report said that Avast privately notified Google and Apple about the apps' behaviour. It has also alerted TikTok and Instagram to shut the accounts promoting these apps. A Google spokesperson was quoted in the report as saying that the company has removed these apps. However, the report said that some of these apps are still available on the Apple App Store. Representatives from Apple, TikTok, and Instagram (Facebook) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.