Android users are once again in danger of getting their information collected and being hit by an unending stream of spam and unwelcome offers just because they searched for popular games on Google Play and made the mistake of downloading bogus apps.
The latest scammy “developer” spotted on Google’s official Android online market named himself “abbarandon”, and offers for download “free” versions of popular apps such as Plants vs. Zombies, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, Grand Theft Auto III, and others.
Impatient users who download the games without looking at the description will be surprised to find the apps are intent on collecting information about them (email address, mobile phone number) and show a variety of ads in the app and the device’s notification tray.
“But it doesn’t stop there, the app is also going to change your browser’s home page, add a bookmark, and add icons to your device’s home screen. All of this is designed to earn money for the app developer,” points out Sophos’ graham Cluley.
“Various advertising frameworks are being used by the apps, including Apperhand, Clicxap, Airpush and Startapp – presumably earning money for the developer who is bandying around apps on the Google Play store, pretending that they are free versions of popular games.”
“Abbarandon” has seemingly been booted out of Google Play and his account has been closed, but a simple search reveals that he or other “developers” offering the same apps are still there, peddling their wares (click on the screenshot to enlarge it):
The worst thing about this whole situation is that these developers haven’t technically deceived users. It says right there in the app descriptions:
Plants vs. Zombies Free! Please leave only positive feedback. If you have any support questions – please send us email. This is a Amazing puzzle specially for game fans.
Creating an app takes time and money, In order to keep creating great (and free!) apps, we are using a new search service to monetize our apps. With this service we are able to create more great apps for you guys. This option bundles a few search points (icon, bookmark and homepage) for you to use. You can erase these easily and with no effect to our app. Thanks!