Security firm Trend Micro has reported that around 29 beauty camera apps on the Play Store were sending users pornographic content, redirecting them to phishing websites and some were also stealing private pictures. Some of the apps had been downloaded millions of times on the Play Store, according to the report.
It appears that Google has banned these 29 beauty camera apps on the Play Store after the problems were discovered. The apps had more downloads from Asia, with the India market standing out in particular.
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First, several of these beauty camera apps were "accessing remote ad configuration servers that can be used for malicious purposes," says the security firm. The analysis shared by Trend Micro shows that most users would not realise that something was wrong with the apps, until they wanted to delete the app.
Some apps would hide their icon from the application list, making it hard for users to uninstall these from the phone. The apps also used tactics to ensure that they cannot be analysed.
These apps pushed malicious full screen ads when the users unlocked their phones. "During our analysis, we found a paid online pornography player (detected as AndroidOS_PornPlayer.UHRXA) that was downloaded when clicking the pop up. Take note, however, that nothing will play, even after the user pays and executes the player," notes the blog.
For users, it would become difficult to figure out the source of these full screen ads on their phones. It also says the app will download an ad configuration from some remote servers, which was then used to analyze the target device and determine the advertisement's behaviour.
And what about the beautified photos, which the apps claimed was the original purpose? Trend Micro says some apps would ask users to beautify their photo by uploading them, but end result was a picture with a fake update prompt in nine different languages.
The app creators were possibly collecting the photos uploaded in the app. These were likely used for malicious purposes like fake social media profiles, according to the blog.
The security firm says users should check reviews of apps before downloading, and they will notice that legitimate reviewers are mostly giving these kind of apps one star ratings, while the fake reviewers will leave a high 5-star rating. The ‘U’ pattern in the rating is a giveway that the app might not be legitimate.
The full list of these 29 apps is as given below
Pro Camera Beauty, Cartoon Art Photo, Emoji Camera, Artistic effect Filter, Art Editor, Beauty Camera, Selfie Camera Pro, Horizon Beauty Camera, Super Camera, Art Effects for Photo, Awesome Cartoon Art, Art Filter Photo, Cartoon Effect, Art Effect, Photo Editor, Wallpapers HD, Magic Art Filter Photo Editor, Fill Art Photo Editor, ArtFlipPhotoEditing, Art Filter, Cartoon Art Photo, Prizma Photo Effect, Cartoon Art Photo Filter, Art Filter Photo Editor, Pixture, Art Effect, Photo Art Effect, Cartoon Photo Filter