Fraudulent wallpaper apps for Android devices have been making a return this fall after starting to re-emerge in late summer, cybersecurity company Anura announced on Wednesday, noting that it recently identified a large influx of such software on the Google Play Store. The Middletown, Delaware-based firm found three developers uploaded 43 such apps since August 28th, adding that their malicious offerings were downloaded up to 1.1 million times to date. The developers identified by Anura apparently managed to trick the Google Play Protect framework by shipping apps with slightly altered zero-click code seeking to generate phantom clicks and earn advertising money for its creator(s). While the changes to the known scam were minor as far as coding is concerned, they were significant enough to go around Google's protection mechanism, the company suggested.
The fraudulent apps are unsurprisingly targeted at a wide demographic and usually bear the "E for Everyone" rating, with many of them being aimed at children and featuring names like "Cure Fluffy Rabbit Live Wallpaper." The new batch of fraudulent wallpaper ads emerged less than eight weeks after Anura pointed to the original zero-click software it found on the Google Play Store, prompting the Alphabet-owned company to tweak its algorithms and account for the newly identified type of digital fraud. Malicious developers apparently managed to adapt in little time and are already capitalizing on unsuspecting users despite Google's protections. Anura suggested that the current state of affairs is indicative of the weaknesses inherent in the automated nature of Google's anti-fraud software, noting how Apple doesn't have the same issues because its (iOS) app reviewing process entails its employees running checks on developers and testing their apps prior to publication, whereas Google's model cannot prevent new scams before they're already live on the Play Store.
While the latest iteration of fraudulent Wallpaper apps started launching in late August, they're still debuting today, Anura said. Refer to the banner below for a more detailed look at the company's new findings or check the gallery beneath it to see some of the Android apps that Anura confirmed are running zero-click scripts in the background.