The IT security company, Lookout, has found new adware hidden in hundreds of apps that, according to user reports, can make an Android smartphone virtually unusable.
The adware found by Lookout bears the name BeiTaAd and, according to the security company, was hidden in 238 different apps. These apps were downloaded a frightening 440 million times from the Google Play Store and displayed annoying ads to users to generate revenue.
The trick used by the newly discovered adware was that it did not usually strike immediately. The plugin stayed hidden in the apps took between 24 hours and two weeks to start spitting out ads. These were so-called "out-of-app ads" which, according to their name, do not display advertising in the app itself but, for example, on the lock screen - partly in the form of videos.
As if that weren't already annoying enough, those affected also report that their smartphone became almost unusable due to BeiTaAd. In response to another user's report on the Android forum, where users found the adware hard to find and couldn't remove it from a smartphone, DazDilinger45 reports:
"My wife is having the exact same issue. This will bring up random adds in the middle of phone calls, when her alarm clock goes off or anytime she uses any other function o her phone. We are unable to find any other information on this. It is extremely annoying and almost making her phone unusable."
All affected apps were released by a Chinese company called CooTek and all CooTek apps contained the said plugin. Lookout reported the behavior of BeiTaAd to Google, and the responsible apps were then either removed from the Play Store or updated and the plugin removed. The apps affected also included the well-known keyboard app TouchPal Keyboard and numerous other health and fitness apps.
Google Play Protect fails miserably again
It also remains to be seen how such a large number of apps have escaped Google's security measures for several months. Apparently not much has happened here since the last big AV test, where Google failed miserably.