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Sneaky Android adware hides its own icon to avoid removal – find out how to get rid of it!

SophosLabs discovered 15 apps in the Play Store that contain adware that hides its own icon in the launcher to avoid deletion.


Security researchers at SophosLabs have discovered 15 apps in the Play Store that contain a manipulative strain of adware that hides its own icon in the launcher to avoid being uninstalled by making the process unusually difficult for the users, it disguises itself as a harmless system app. There is a possibility of more such apps being present on the Play Store beside these 15 discovered ones. Some apps of similar nature have gone a step further and were found upon opening the phone’s App Settings page, hidden beneath names and icons that make them appear as legitimate system apps.

Some people tend to download an app, without giving its requirement much of a thought or consideration, the habit may have led you into inadvertently downloading these malicious apps such as QR code reading, free calls and messaging, phone finder, backup utilities and image editor apps which have adware embedded in them and serve no purpose at all other than to generate revenues for the developers by displaying intrusive advertisements. To exemplify, Flash on Calls & Messages – aka Free Calls & Messages is one such app, which shows a fake error message when the user launches it, telling the user that it is incompatible with his device. Then the user is directed to the Google Play Store entry for Google Maps, to mislead the user into believing that the Maps app is the reason for the crash, which is not at all true.

On Google Play Store, most of these camouflaged apps receive negative ratings and reviews which highlight the disappointments and the issues faced by users while using the app. More than 13 lakh phones were populated by these malicious apps, according to SophosLabs.

Quoting Andrew Brandt, principal researcher at SophosLabs, "To stay safe when downloading apps from the Google Play Store, users are advised to read reviews and sort them by most recent and filter out the positive four and five-star reviews with no written text,"

"App developers have, for years, embedded ad-code into their apps as a way to help defray the costs of development, but some developers simply use their apps as a borderline-abusive platform solely to launch ads on mobile devices," he added.

How to get rid of adware apps? 

Referencing from the advise given by Andrew Brandt, "If you suspect that an app you recently installed is hiding its icon in the app tray, tap Settings (the gear menu) and then Apps & Notifications. The most recently opened apps appear in a list at the top of this page."

"If any of those apps use the generic Android icon (which looks like a little greenish-blue Android silhouette) and have generic-sounding names (‘Back Up,’ ‘Update,’ ‘Time Zone Service’) tap the generic icon and then tap ‘Force Stop’ followed by ‘Uninstall.’ A real system app will have a button named ‘Disable’ instead of ‘Uninstall’ and you don’t need to bother disabling it."

"To stay safe when downloading apps from the Google Play Store, users are advised to read reviews and sort them by most recent and filter out the positive four and five-star reviews with no written text,"

"If several reviews mention specific undesirable behavior, it's likely best to avoid that particular app," he says. 
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Adware

Cyber Fraud

Fake Apps

Google Play Store