Malware displaying pornographic ads discovered in game apps on Google Play.

Be careful what you download, especially if you’re planning to hand it off to an impressionable young user. A new finding of content in the Google Play Store includes around 60 children’s apps that are filled with malware. This malware, though, has a very specific goal, namely putting porn advertisements in front of users.

The apps–which have now been removed by Google–were predominantly Disney-themed apps and add-ons for Minecraft’s pocket edition, all of which are geared towards younger users. Called AdultSwine malware and discovered by security experts at Checkpoint, the harmful code worked in one of three different ways: it displayed pornographic ads for adult websites, posed as security fixes that convinced users to download and install them, or caused users to sign up for at-cost premium services.

Malware populated children's apps with porn adverts.

Malware populated children’s apps with porn adverts.


Like another recently discovered series of compromised Google Chrome extensions, AdultSwine was harmful enough on the surface but had the deeper underlying ability to steal things like login credentials from the users’ devices. Some of the comments from infected users also reported that it displayed full-size popups that falsely claimed their devices had been infected with other types of viruses. The screen offered users the chance to remove the virus, but clicking that button redirected to an app for sale in the Google Play Store to “clean” the device. Others were met with offers for free iPhones for taking a short survey and other similar tactics.

Better vetting

News like this begs the question that if Google can expend so much manpower removing threats that other security experts were kind enough to report to them, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if they spent that same energy actually preventing these threats through better vetting? In the meantime, parents need to remember that most of the discovered malware is “after the fact,” and that it will be up to them to ensure their kids aren’t playing with devices while unattended.

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