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Popular beauty apps on Play Store showed porn ads, stole photos

You might want to think twice before downloading that beauty camera app or selfie filter tool....

Published onFebruary 4, 2019

  • Trend Micro has discovered over two dozen malicious beauty apps on the Play Store.
  • These apps pushed malicious ads, pornographic pop-ups, and redirected users to phishing websites.
  • Some of these apps are stealing photos by posing as filter-style apps.

The Google Play Store isn’t completely free of nefarious apps, and a new discovery by security firm Trend Micro (h/t: Ars Technica) has shown just how dangerous it can be.

Trend Micro found that a group of beauty camera apps had been pushing full-screen ads when users were unlocking their phones. These pop-ups included ads of a pornographic nature. One of these pornographic ads was a paid video player, but the security company said even if you fork over some cash, nothing actually plays.

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The beauty apps also offered other malicious pop-ups, such as directing users to phishing websites in order to grab their personal data. These apps hid their icons from the Android app list, so users can’t uninstall them by holding on the icon, or dragging it to the rubbish bin. Furthermore, the camera apps use packers to prevent them from being analyzed by Android security protocols.

This isn’t the only tactic spotted by Trend Micro, as the firm uncovered another group of malicious apps. These particular apps let you upload your photos to be “beautified.” However, instead of spitting out a touched-up selfie, these apps display a fake update notification in several languages. The security company speculates that the developers are stealing these photos to use them in fake social media profiles and other questionable activities.

These aren’t merely apps with a few dozen downloads either: the biggest offenders (Pro Camera Beauty, Cartoon Art Photo, and Emoji Camera) each have over one million downloads. You can check out the full list of malicious apps in the table below.

A list of malicious apps, by Trend Micro.

The security company has called on users to check an app’s reviews before downloading it. This isn’t a sure-fire way to suss out all questionable apps, but a high number of five-star and one-star ratings alike should give you pause for thought. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about these particular beauty apps, as Google has pulled them, according to Trend Micro.

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