When you are using apps on your cell phone, the most annoying thing you can encounter is pop-up ads occurring at the most inopportune times. Recently, nearly 440 million Android users had downloaded apps that showed aggressive advertising that would occur outside of apps. The common thread found in the over 238 applications that were affected seems to be an advertising plugin called the BeiTaPlugin.
Originally discovered by a Security Intelligence Engineer at Lookout, BeiTaAd went undiscovered by Google Play over the past year. The Google Play Store has had a series of associated adware infestations in which advertising libraries are strategically placed inside legitimate apps to increase the ad revenue levels that developers can achieve. Unfortunately, this has led to the development of shady business practices that can ultimately render a smartphone unusable.
All of the apps affected by BeiTaAd were developed by a trusted Chinese mobile internet company named CooTek, including the popular custom keyboard app TouchPal. While the SDK originally functioned as intended, earlier this year ads and pop-ups began being served outside of the apps including on the lock screen. This, in turn, began to block access to the phone’s features and limiting screen functionality.
While this could have been played off by CooTek as a malfunction in the advertising library, research has found that the aggressive advertising was purposely hidden in the code to confuse users. Even worse, the ads wouldn’t appear until up to 24 hours after the app was used to hide where they were coming from. Without intervention by Lookout, it’s possible that these apps would still be available in Google. At the current time, all of the affected apps have been removed from the google play store.
For more information on BeiTaAd and the affected applications, we encourage you to view the research report directly from Lookout.
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