Cybersecurity firm Human has uncovered another adware campaign that engages in ad fraud targeting iOS and Android devices. In simpler terms, advertising fraud allows the bad actor to either spam an app with ads, or manipulate the code in such a way that the ads are invisible to the user while the bad actor extracts advertising money from the marketer.
On every iteration, it’s fraudulent. Ad fraud has been rampant in the industry for a while, and a recent investigation revealed a cache of more than 75 Android apps listed on the Google Play Store and nearly a dozen apps on the Apple App Store that engage in various forms of fraud in ads.
Bad apps have collectively been downloaded more than 13 million times across the Google and Apple app platforms. Notified by Human, Google and Apple have since cleared the apps from their respective app repositories.
This is the third wave of the same attack, first reported in 2019 and named Poseidon. The second wave that raised its head in 2020 was called Charybdis, while the continuing wave of attack was given the name Scylla. Over time, campaign targeting has gained the ability to hide malicious code and the ability to target the SDK.
By the time the Scylla adware campaign has raised its head, it could present itself as a legitimate game, tricking advertisers into spending more money. The fraud uses hidden advertisements that are not visible to users, or just out-of-context applications that appear randomly on the screen. The manipulation of ad view metrics has also been observed as a way to record ad clicks and earn money.
What is the safe way ahead?
The most logical course of action is Delete the problematic apps, assuming they are already installed on your phone. You can check the full list of adware-affected apps at human site. An effective precautionary step is to always install apps from trusted developers and publishers.
Another option is to upgrade to the premium version of the app if the free tier displays too many suspicious ads that allow clicking to get to a more malicious web page. App developers don’t always have excessive control over the ads that appear on their apps.
We live in the age of constant web tracking, and targeted ads modeled after behavioral patterns are the most penetrating. Since advertising companies often rely on breadcrumbs for our online activities, you should clear your browser history, cache and cookies from time to time.
You can also try specialized adware removal apps, just to be on the safe side. NordVPN offers a fairly robust ad blocking system. Other reliable options are Adware Cleaner by Pocket BitsAnd the Norton Ad BlockerAnd the TotalAnd the Malware.
Adware is not a new phenomenon, especially on the Android side of the ecosystem. But despite Apple’s claims of a secure app ecosystem, iPhones aren’t really impervious. security company Indira I spotted 17 apps on the App Store in 2019 that were showing invisible ads and recording ghostly clicks to generate ad revenue.
In 2018, a Cisco Talos The researcher revealed a highly targeted attack that affected only 13 iPhones in India by arming an MDM server. One of the suspicious consequences of the attack was the appearance of random ads on infected devices. But the malware ecosystem is an ever-evolving landscape. A little over a month ago, experts at the German Technical University Darmstadt were cooked A deadly malware that communicates via Bluetooth and can infect your iPhone when it is turned off.
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