Google has kicked 210 apps from its app store after being informed that they were loaded with hidden adware. The apps have been downloaded more than 150 million times from the Google Play store.

The malware, which is called SimBad, masqueraded as an ad-serving platform. App creators didn’t know it hid malware and that it opened a backdoor to install additional malware as a way to outsmart Google’s app store scanning.

Once installed, the downloaded malware also removes the app icon and runs in the background, loading each time the device boots up. Once the malware retrieves its instructions from a command and control server it begins serving ads to generate fraudulent revenue.

At one level this might seem innocuous but at another level it’s at best irritating and at the very least a huge privacy invasion. There is also the added threat that it could be modified and present a much greater danger in the future.

Google has removed the infected apps from its app store but they are still running on users’ devices.

Most of the infected apps are simulation games with some dating back to 2017. The following are the top 10 downloaded games infected by the malware which in themselves amount to 55 million downloads:
  • Snow Heavy Excavator Simulator  - 10 million downloads
  • Hoverboard Racing – 5 million downloads
  • Real Tractor Farming Simulator – 5 million downloads
  • Ambulance Rescue Driving – 5 million downloads
  • Heavy Mountain Bus Simulator 2018 – 5 million downloads
  • Fire Truck Emergency Driver – 5 million downloads
  • Farming Tractor Real Harvest Simulator – 5 million downloads
  • Car Parking Challenge – 5 million download
  • Speed Boat Jet Ski Racing – 5 million downloads
  • Water Surfing Car Stunt - 5 million downloads
You can find a full list of the infected apps here.

To give you a sense of the scale of infected apps on the Google store, official figures put the number of apps Google removed last year at about 700,000.

BullGuard Mobile Security protects you from malware infected apps. You can download a free version and there is also a low-cost version that includes parental controls to keep the kids’ safe. Find out more.