Android fans have been put on alert about a number of popular Google Play Store apps that are loaded with malicious software.
Android is one of the most used pieces of software in the world, with more than two billion active devices running Google’s mobile OS each month.
The hugely popular OS has also been subject to a number of high-profile security scares, the biggest of which being the Judy malware campaign.
That saw up to 36.5million Android smartphone users infected by over 41 apps on the Google Play Store.
And now Android fans are being warned about another Google Play Store security scare.
Experts have warned that 13 malware-filled apps found on the Google Play Store have been installed on more than half a million Android devices.
Lukas Stefanko, an IT security researcher with ESET, discovered the malware was found on a number of Android driving game apps.
He tweeted: “Don’t install these apps from Google Play – it’s malware.
“Details: 13 apps, all together 560,000+ installs, after launch hide itself icon, downloads additional APK and makes user install it (unavailable now), 2 apps are #Trending, no legitimate functionality, reported”.
Stefanko also published a video showing one offending app being installed on an Android device.
When Stefanko tries to open it the app shows a logo for a game graphics engine but then after that displays a blank screen.
And after exiting the app the icon for it no longer appears.
Stefanko also tweeted: “Downloaded APK is called – Game Center.
“This app is downloaded in the background and requests user to install it.
“Once launched, it hide itself & displays ads when device is unlocked.”
Since Stefanko reported these apps they have now been removed from the Google Play Store, according to a post by HackRead.
Responding to the findings, Will LaSala, Director of Security Solutions at OneSpan, said: “Application repackaging has been on the rise for a while now.
“Earlier this year it was reported that applications were being hijacked to install cryptocurrency miners.
“We saw a decline in these attacks when governments started to address the cryptocurrency conversion process and made it harder for anonymous people to cash out.
“However, these repackage attacks did not stop, instead they got more sophisticated and refocused on other valuable data that can be converted to money just as quickly.
“New repackaging attacks make common or simple apps into nefarious payload delivery applications.
“This allows hackers to get other malware onto victims phones without their knowledge and often by combining screen overlay attacks to help trick users into installing these newly downloaded malware payloads.
“These malware apps focus on harvesting credentials and injecting libraries that can cause applications to deliver sensitive information directly into the hands of the hacker.”