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Make sure you don’t have any of these 17 sketchy Google Play apps on your phone

Published Jan 15th, 2020 1:08AM EST

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The Google Play Store’s unending game of sketchy app whack-a-mole shows no sign of letting up anytime soon, as researchers with cybersecurity company Bitdefender on Tuesday ID’d a total of 17 Google Play apps — with more than half a million installs between them — as using multiple tricks to serve users with unwanted ads.

App developers have found great success by using a variety of tricks to keep their apps under the radar of Google’s security protections that cover its applications marketplace, but the fact of the matter is that way too many skate through with ease. They do it using tactics like these apps relied on, such as showing ads at random times and spreading their code across multiple files — though they also make sure that their code does what the Google Play Store description promises, which would seem to imply that they’re otherwise legit.

As of the time of this writing, Google has been notified about the apps “and the reported apps are being taken offline,” according to Bitdefender, which continued in its report Tuesday:

“While not malicious per se, the tactics (these apps used) to smuggle themselves into Google Play and dodge Google’s vetting system are traditionally associated with malware. Waiting 48 hours before hiding their presence on the device, splitting the app’s code into multiple resource files, and holding off displaying ads until 4 hours after app installation are among the tactics these developers use to plant their apps onto Google Play.”

The report includes a number of complaints from users left in the Google Play Store after they tried the various apps:

Image source: Bitdefender

Users complained of their battery being drained, and there’s also the possibility that one or more of these apps could add even worse practices in updated versions of the app, which is why it’s recommended that you uninstall any of the following apps:

  • Car Racing 2019
  • 4K Wallpaper (Background 4K Full HD)
  • Backgrounds 4K HD
  • QR Code Reader & Barcode Scanner Pro
  • File Manager Pro — Manager SD Card/Explorer
  • VMOWO City: Speed Racing 3D
  • Barcode Scanner
  • Screen Stream Mirroring
  • QR Code — Scan & Read a Barcode
  • Period Tracker — Cycle Ovulation Women’s
  • QR & Barcode Scan Reader
  • Wallpapers 4K, Backgrounds HD
  • Transfer Data Smart
  • Explorer File Manager
  • Today Weather Radar
  • Big Fish Frenzy
  • Clock LED
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.