Android Phones Hijacked for Ad Scam

John Lister's picture

Tens of millions of Android devices may have been infected by rogue apps that found a way past Google's security checks. The 'Judy' malware came through apps in the official Google Play store.

Google makes a big deal about its Play Store being a safe place to get apps. If an app is obtained from another source other that the Play Store, users must specifically confirm any associated risk during app installation. That makes it particularly embarrassing for Google, considering that the Judy malware was able to slip through its security checks.

The malware in question has been dubbed Judy, which is derived from the name of one of the 41 affected apps. They've now been removed from the store by Google. Some of the apps in question are said to have had as many as 18.5 million downloads. (Source:

Apps Make Bogus 'Clicks'

Judy is a form of adware, which sole purpose is to click on advertisements on an infected device without the user knowing about it. The idea is for the scammers to make money from advertisers by bumping up the supposed number of views an ad receives. The more views, the more clicks made on advertisements, which then turns profits for the website hosting the advertisements.

In this case, the phone or tablet opens a web page in the background so that the user never sees it, then loads the ads and automatically "clicks" them by examining the relevant code and sending bogus confirmation. (Source:

Google Security Bypassed

There are also some cases where the ads have appeared on screen so that they can be seen by the user, often in such a manner that the user has to "click" the ad to remove it. It's not clear why this is happening and it may have been a mistake on the scammers' part, as it has helped drawn attention to the issue.

Most, if not all of the apps were very casual games that were popular in the Asian market, with "Chef Judy: Picnic Lunch Maker" being a typical title. The real problem isn't so much the title of the apps, but rather, that they may have exposed a weakness in Google's vetting process that other scammers could exploit. One theory is that the apps themselves don't contain any malicious code, and therefore were automatically passed by Google's systems. Instead, it's suggested that the apps were able to update themselves after being installed, which then reprogrammed the app to contain the malicious code.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you use the Google Play Store and if so do you trust it? Does it matter that it's the advertisers, rather than the phone's user, who loses out with this scam? Can Google do more to catch rogue apps or should users take more responsibility?

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ecash's picture

but not ADVERTS..
i KEEP SEEING 3RD PARTY ADVERTS, that pop up on the program, that says BAD things..YOU ARE INFECTED, YOU ARE LOOSING RAM...on and on..

JUST cause I have an APP from Google dont mean that they are using Google to advert..

THEN there is the 1000 apps that DO something, Which does WHAT I want, the best way, FOR my version of the OS...

I Have a BIG problem with the descriptions..
FREE or PAY isnt enough..Trail, Adverts, and other descriptions would be nice..
I had 1 program that REPLACED my lock screen with THEIRS..I complained and they removed it if' they didnt do it, and the prog was created by another person..and they knew nothing about an ADVERT taking over the screen..

ecash's picture

Waiting for google to get TIRED of this stuff and BAN all adverts..
They have a program going, that IF' you like certain apps, they will INTEGRATE them in an ALL in 1 app..