35 malicious apps change their icons and names to serve ads

Anne Freer | August 22, 2022


Cyber security experts Bitdefender just identified 35 apps on Google Play that, once downloaded, hide their presence on a device by renaming themselves and changing their icons to deliver aggressive ads. 

By changing their name and icon, the apps aim to confuse users and become harder to deinstall. 

Ads served in this manner tend to be disruptive and while legitimate apps still can serve ads, malicious types tend to also serve other types of malware. 

GPS Location Maps is one such app. It has more than 100k downloads but no reviews. 

After installation, the app changes its label to ‘Settings’ and then shows websites in Android WebViews and ads. 

By changing its icon and name, it becomes harder for users to uninstall the app. 

Bitdefender found that some of these malicious apps request permission to display over other apps and bypass battery optimisation. 

When taking a closer look at the developers, Bitdefender found a pattern emerging that showed a similar naming style and similar email addresses linked to the developers. This points to these apps emerging from a single group of developers.

To remain safe, Bitdefender recommends not installing apps that aren’t needed and deleting those no longer in use. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of apps with fewer downloads or reviews or those requiring special permissions.

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