While it might be difficult to detect the legitimacy of these apps, users can steer clear by checking user reviews on Google Play Store and looking out for the red flags.
In an attempt to clear the Google Play Store of malicious applications and content, Google has taken down a slew of “beauty camera” apps. These apps steal users’ photos, promote pornographic content and carry out nefarious activities on Android devices. Altogether 29 apps, these were mostly downloaded from Asia, particularly in India. In case you are still using any of these apps, it’s advisable to uninstall them right away.
Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro discovered the malicious activities triggered by these apps. In its report, the company stated that the apps would exhibit a range of behaviour. Some of them would hide their icon from the application list, making it difficult for a user to drag-and-delete them. While others would push full-screen ads including fraudulent and pornographic content.
“A user downloading one of these apps will not immediately suspect that there is anything amiss until they decide to delete the app,” writes Trend Micro on its blog.
The report shared screenshots and evidence of the way these photo filter apps operated. It also cited instances of a user being unknowingly exposed to scams.
“Some of these apps redirect to phishing websites that ask the user for personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers.”
And that’s not all. Upon investigating this further, Trend Micro discovered another batch of beauty apps that would steal users’ personal photos. When a user uploads their photos to an external server, the apps sends a fake update notification. These stolen photos can be used for a variety of malicious purposes like creating fake profiles on social media.
Most of these app developers use compression archives, known as 'packers'. Basically, this makes it even more difficult to detect such apps.
Some of these banned apps include Pro Camera Beauty, Cartoon Art Photo, Emoji Camera, Artistic effect Filter, Art Editor, Beauty Camera, Selfie Camera Pro, Horizon Beauty Camera, Super Camera, and Art Effects for Photo among others.
Google has taken immediate action to shut these down and even pulled down the 29 Android applications. However, as a user, the need to practice cation cannot be stressed enough. The simplest method is to check user reviews and look out for red flags, if any.