Android adware installed 30M times before being pulled from Google Play Store

Android apps laden with adware were installed more than 30 million times before being removed from the Google Play Store, according to cyber security software provider Avast.

The company said in a blog published on 23 April that it discovered 50 adware apps on the Google Play Store, with installations of the apps in question ranging from 5,000 to 5 million.

According to Avast, the adware it found can be a nuisance for those who inadvertently installed it on their phones, as it results in persistent displays of full-screen ads. It also occasionally tries to convince users to install additional apps, the cyber security company said.

The Avast research uncovered two versions of the adware, which the company said tapped into third party Android libraries in a bid to bypass background service restrictions in newer versions of the mobile operating system. This let the adware display more and more ads to users — something that is against Google Play Store rules.

Of the two versions of the adware that was discovered, ‘version A’ was installed 3.6 million times, largely contained in game, fitness and photo editing apps, according to Avast. The ‘version B’ adware, meanwhile, was installed nearly 28 million times, and was included in fitness and music apps.

An example of one of the apps containing the adware (Source: Avast)

Avast claims the that the samples it found have since been removed from the Google Play Store, but not before tha adware was installed at least 30 million times by unwitting smartphone users around the world.

As noted by ZDNet, the disclosure of the adware discovery by Avast comes just days after fellow cyber security provider Checkpoint revealed its researchers had uncovered a series of apps found on the Google Play Store that were conducting fraudulent activities against ad agencies.

“In total, the malware was downloaded over 90 million times across 6 applications. Google was notified and removed the infected applications from Google Play,” Checkpoint said in a blog posted on 19 April.

According to Checkpoint, the so-called ‘PreAMo’ malware found in from leads fed to the researchers imitates the user by clicking on banners retrieved from three ad agencies: Presage, Admob and Mopub.

ATO picks Melbourne app developer Elegant Media for new staff induction program

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has selected Melbourne-based IT and services firm Elegant Media to develop an app to deliver ATO staff induction program activities for new employees.

“We live and breathe App development and really pride ourselves on being the only Australian App development company to have ISO 9001 Accreditation,” said Elegant Media co-founder and CEO Anushka Bandara.

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Elegant Media co-founder and CEO Anushka Bandara

“We have worked hard to put in place systems to ensure we consistently provide products and services which meet client and regulatory requirements. Securing the opportunity to work with such a significant organisation like the ATO is very rewarding,” Bandara added.

The firm said that according to training and development industry experts, most organisations realise that for training to be the most effective, it needs to be delivered to employees directly into their workplace where they are engaged in their work.

“This enables employees to learn while on the job and also reduces loss of time and resources when training is undertaken out of the workplace,” added Bandara

“The ATO App development project is a pilot initiative which will result in the delivery of an App that can be used by all new staff members to undertake their induction program with the ATO,” Bandara said. “The App will be versatile and able to be used on devices such as an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or Android tablet.”

“The app will include a range of different modules and easy to follow messaging, prompts and informational videos,” said Bandara. “Hopefully if all goes well, we will be able to expand the functionality and scope of the App to incorporate other activities as well.”

The ATO Training and Development App is expected to be completed and implemented for use across the organisation by September 2018.

SOARING AUSSIE APP DEMAND PRESENTS OPPORTUNITIES, THREATS FOR LOCAL BUSINESS, TELCOS

Soaring Australian demand for apps is opening the doors for businesses and brands but is also posing new threats, according to App Annie, whose new report shows Australia is the eighth largest market for consumer app spend.

The app analytics and market data company’s new report shows Australian consumers spent US$1.1 billion in the app stores last year, while the New Zealand spend was US$145 million, for a global consumer spend ranking of 32.

The report shows Australians spent 276 hours per capita in Android phone apps in 2017, a number higher than both the United Kingdom and Germany, indicating highly advanced user habits and adoption, App Annie said.

But while the Australian and New Zealand market are relatively advanced versus the global market, Jaede Tan, App Annie regional director, told Telecom Times there is still significant room for growth.

“App Annie predicts that consumer spend in Australia will reach US$1.8 billion by 2022, which is over 60% growth,” Tan said. “It is crucial that all local businesses operating in Australia and New Zealand consider the state of maturity the market is in – the expansion phase.

“During this phase, consumers build an understanding of the types of apps that are most useful to them and therefore tend to search for new apps less often. As a result, engagement and spend climb as people use their preferred apps more frequently,” he said.

“ANZ consumers are advanced by global standards and are actively seeking solutions to run their daily lives through smartphones and apps. These user consumption habits are being solidified today and will only continue to grow in importance in the coming year,” said Tan.

He said that represents “a very exciting opportunity’ for every ANZ business and brand to engage consumers in a personalised, real-time way through constantly present devices.

“But [it] also poses substantial threats to those businesses that are not able to develop a first-class digital experience for an increasingly demanding target audience,” Tan added.

While the expansion stage sees downloads remaining high, growth rates slow, Tan said.

“Australia is beginning to see these patterns. Download growth has started to stabilise, remaining close to 700M total downloads in 2017 across Google Play and the iOS App Store combined, while at the same time, consumer spend is growing dramatically – likely at an accelerated rate when compared to similarly mature markets, thanks to the high average income in Australia,” he added.

Tan said Australia’s large spend and high per capita use of apps also had implications for telcos, which “need to take note and tailor their service offerings in terms of data plans, partnered and proprietary content.’

Globally, app spend hit $81.7 billion in 2017, with Asia-Pacific driving nearly two-thirds of the global spend thanks to China – the world’s largest market at $62.4 billion spend, or 40% of worldwide spend.

Come 2022, App Annie is forecasting annual consumer spend to hit $157 billion – up 92% on 2017 – with the average annual consumer spend per device up 23% to US$26.