Google removes malicious beauty camera apps that stole user photos

Some of the nearly 30 apps removed also spammed users with ads, phishing schemes and pornographic material

Google Play Store

Google has rounded up and removed another batch of malicious apps from the Play Store that were responsible for sending users to phishing scams, pornographic content and collecting their pictures.

The search giant removed 30 beauty camera apps that lured users in with promises of fun photo filters and effects. All of the apps exhibited malicious behaviour.

For example, some of the apps would create a shortcut to launch the app but hide the actual app icon from the launcher. This made it hard to delete the app as users who tried the standard drag-and-drop method would only remove the shortcut.

Additionally, the apps would push several full-screen ads to users when they unlocked their device, some of which featured fraudulent or pornographic content. These ads would open via the device’s browser.

On top of this, the apps do not indicate that they’re behind the ads, making it difficult for users to trace where the ads come from.

Along with the ads, the apps sometimes launch phishing schemes, such as a prize website that informs users they’ve won an iPhone X but asks them to input personal information like their phone number and address.

Another set of apps requires users to upload a photo to ‘beautify’ it. However, users will get a fake update prompt that uses several different languages instead of an actual result. Worse, the developer can collect the photos uploaded in this way. These apps can also hide similar to the other group of apps, using a shortcut in place of an app icon.

The apps received several installs, with the smallest apps seeing only around 5-10 installs, and the biggest getting over 1 million. These installs came predominantly from Asia, and particularly India.

If you’re concerned about downloading a potentially fraudulent beauty camera app, make sure you check reviews before downloading an app. Reviews can often indicate the legitimacy of an app.

Keep an eye out for any mention of suspicious behaviour. Also look for apps that have a high number of one- and five-star reviews, but few of any other rating. Often, this can indicate an app has several fake five-star ratings to counter all the real one-star ratings.

You can see a full list of the removed apps here.

Source: Trend Micro