In an era where smartphone use has become an important part of our daily lives, the convenience and functionality of smartphone apps cannot be overstated.
However, recent reports have revealed a disturbing trend where popular Android apps with over 2.5 million downloads continue to show ads – even when the device’s screen is off.
This invasive behavior not only compromises the user experience, but also raises data privacy and security concerns. Here’s how to protect yourself from this rising trend in mobile apps.
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The disturbing trend
43 apps available on Google’s Play Store were found to be running in the background and fraudulently making money for the app’s developer. The full list of these apps can be found on the McAfee website.
The discovery of Android apps with significant download numbers engaging in secretive advertising behavior has sent shockwaves through the mobile app ecosystem.
Research by Bleeping Computer and McAfee security has revealed that a significant number of seemingly harmless apps continue to display advertisements even when a user’s device screen is turned off. This phenomenon is not only an annoyance, but also raises legitimate concerns about how these apps work behind the scenes.
The potential risks
Privacy concerns: Apps that display ads when the device’s screen is off can potentially access personal and sensitive user information without their consent. While not all apps engaging in this behavior may have malicious intent, the act itself demonstrates a disregard for user privacy.
Battery drain: Showing ads even when the screen is off can have a significant impact on your device’s battery life. Users may notice an unexpected and rapid battery drain, leading to a compromised overall experience.
Data usage: Background ad activity may contribute to increased data usage, potentially resulting in additional charges for users on limited data plans.
Security Vulnerabilities: Apps that engage in this behavior can introduce security vulnerabilities into the user’s device, leaving them susceptible to malware, phishing, or other cyber threats.
For users who have installed apps with such intrusive behavior, here are some recommended steps to take:
Uninstall suspicious apps: Identify apps that have exhibited the behavior of displaying ads with the screen off. Uninstall these apps immediately to reduce potential risks.
Review app permissions: Pay close attention to the permissions that apps request during installation or updates. If an app requests unnecessary permissions that could compromise your privacy, consider uninstalling it.
Check app reviews: Before installing an app, read user reviews and ratings on the Google Play Store. Look for mentions of invasive ads or other suspicious behavior in the app’s reviews.
Use ad blockers: Consider using reputable ad blocking apps that can help prevent intrusive ads from appearing on your device even when the screen is off.
Update regularly: Keep your Android operating system and apps up to date. Developers often release updates that address security and privacy issues.
Report to Google: If you come across an app that shows ads with the screen off, report it to Google via the Play Store. This helps improve the overall quality and security of the app ecosystem.
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