Recently, Google Play Store app developer “CooTek” has had a wave of sketchy apps banned from the Google Play Store. Security firm Lookout has accused him of deploying adware BeiTaAd in its apps. Lookout began examining a number of apps after it caught wind of users complaining about aggressive in-app ads. Some of these devices have become unusable due to the high volume of ads being pushed – even when the app wasn’t running. Lookout has confirmed that all the reported apps published by CooTek contained the BeiTaAd adware. There were over 200 applications in total that were found to contain this adware.
Users of his apps found themselves unable to make calls, send text messages, or interact with other applications while ads were on display. Google was notified of this malicious behavior last month and requested that app developers update their software to remove this BeiTaAd library. CooTek attempted to circumvent the ad library limitations by heavily obfuscating its code and uploading new versions of its apps with malicious adware that was still active. After CooTek updated his apps, an investigation into the developer revealed that, despite the updates, its advertising practices were still way below Google’s standards. Google confirmed that around 60 apps were removed already, and that more will continue to be removed. “Our Google Play developer policies strictly prohibit malicious and deceptive behavior, as well as disruptive ads. When violations are found, we take action,” a Google spokesperson told the public.
Even if you have removed all of CooTek’s applications from your device, these recent app bans and investigations raise serious concerns over Google Play’s security protocols. When you download apps to your device, always check reviews and be cautious of the permissions you give to these apps. Install a trustworthy anti-virus app and use mobile browsers with strong privacy and ad-blocking settings.