Published: February 14, 2020 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.
Does anyone really like ads popping-up on their devices? For those of us who don’t like them, beware: The Android app that is supposed to block such ads, called Ads Blocker is on the loose. Rather than blocking pesky ads, it actually makes them even more frequent. Those who download the app to reduce advertising find themselves on the wrong end of the very thing they wanted to stop. And it’s not just full screen ads that show up, it’s also spams notifications and websites popping-up out of nowhere. It’s enough to make a user want to toss their device–but don’t do it…the app can be removed, thankfully.
The problem with the Ads Blocker app starts during downloading. It requests permission to display content over other apps, which should be a red flag since the purpose of Ads Blocker is to block content. The app is host to malware called FakeAdsBlock, that relentlessly bombards users with the exact thing they hoped to stop. A new feature of this malware involves using a home screen widget (a simple software component) that is transparent and can’t be seen. The widget loads ads at regular intervals and continually blasts them onto a device. Unless a user removes the widget, the ads continue to flow. But since the user can’t actually see the widget, they have no clue it’s even there to begin with. Sneaky…yes, and it’s just the beginning of even more trickery.
Ads Blocker app also offers to “help” with more than just blocking ads. It also claims to download a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection onto the device, giving users the illusion of having even more security. It’s no surprise that the app never connects with a VPN. Rather, by clicking “OK,” a user ends up giving the app permission to run malware in the background, 24/7. Also, there is no icon for Ads Blocker on the device screen, making it nearly impossible for a user to locate and delete it. The only hint is a small key icon status bar. The key icon appears only after accepting the bogus VPN connection, offering the only visual proof the malware is off and running in the background.
Despite roadblocks designed against removing the Ads Blocker app, it can be done. But rather than have to jump through those hoops, it starts by never downloading apps from third-party providers, which is the only place Ads Blocker can be found. Third-party stores are notorious for malware-filled apps, and getting them only from official app stores offers the best chance the apps are malware-free. Also, paying attention pays off. Always heed the pop-up windows when downloading an app, as they often ask to access
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