Google recently suspended around 85 adware apps from Play Store, downloaded around 9 million times. The search giant’s effort to hinder fraudulent apps seems to be not on the right track as 15 GPS and navigation apps have been found to be fake on its platform, illegally cloning Google Maps app. In addition, over 50 million users have downloaded the fake apps.
A malware researcher at ESET, named Lukas Stefanko has revealed that multiple fraudulent app developers use Google Maps to make money through embedded ads. In simpler terms, the moment you download a fake GPS and navigation app from the Play Store, and click on Drive, Navigate, Route, My Location or other option, you will be greeted to Google Maps with no additional value added to the fake app, excluding the advertisements, helping fraudsters make money for free. The apps also carry bogus app icon.
I tested over 15 fake GPS Navigation apps with over 50,000,000 installs from #GooglePlay that violate Google rules.
These apps just open Google Maps or use their API without any additional value for user, except for displaying ads.
Some of them don’t even have proper app icon. pic.twitter.com/eeIFQS5IVU
— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) January 17, 2019
“These apps just open Google Maps or use their API without any additional value for user, except for displaying ads. These apps pretend to be full featured navigation apps, but all they can do is to create a useless layer between User and Google Maps app. Some of them don’t even have a proper app icon,” the researcher stated. The cited source has also shared a video and a few images of the fake apps.
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He also asserted that the fake apps also ask users to pay if they want to get rid of the embedded ads. A few apps also demand access to phone’s dialer and other key permissions, which could put your personal data at risk. The researcher asserted that Google was informed about the issue a ‘month ago.’ Besides, users are advised to be aware or suspicious of these fake apps and install trusted apps.