Developers located in Asia delivered intrusive advertisements to users, and Google has responded by removing their malicious apps and banning them from its ad networks.
Android devices are more secure than ever. Some developers, though, are continuing to release malicious apps. In a blog post, Google announced that nearly 600 apps were removed from the Play Store after violating its disruptive ads and disallowed interstitial policies. There’s an ongoing effort to stop these apps from entering the Play Store and getting distributed on a large number of smartphones and tablets. It’s all part of mobile ad fraud, which Google labels as an industry-wide challenge harming users and advertisers.
BuzzFeed News reports the majority of the apps targeted English-speaking users but originated out of Asia. Per Bjorke, Google’s Senior Product Manager for Ad Traffic Quality, confirmed more than 4.5 billion installations for these malicious apps. He declined to name the apps or their developers, however.
Cheetah Mobile, a publicly-traded company, reportedly had as many as forty-five apps removed from the Play Store. It’s also no longer listed in Google’s ad networks. The blog post did state developers behind all malicious apps will get banned from AdMob and Ad Manager. Many developers took similar action to deliver the ads, but Google isn’t sure if they engaged in a coordinated effort to trick the system. Perhaps details surrounding Google’s investigation will emerge at a later date.
In terms of disruptive ads, the Mountain View-based company describes these ads as “displayed to users in unexpected ways” that impair or interfere with usability. Disruptive ads can appear in-app, but they’re also capable of surfacing while the user performs an action in another app. Google warns that full-screen pop-ups could get delivered while trying to make a call or follow turn-by-turn navigation.
Google’s existing technologies aren’t perfect, but it’ll design improvements that detect and prevent future threats. Recently, a machine learning-based solution rolled out. It also has dedicated teams tasked with identifying developers who attempt to defraud the ecosystem. So there’s a mixture of manual and automatic action while handling malicious apps and their developers. Users, meanwhile, can report apps to Google if they think there’s a violation.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.