Pou and Subway Surfers used to lure users towards dodgy apps

13 Oct 2015

Subway Surfers is an incredibly popular game on Android

Popular mobile games Pou and Subway Surfer have been used to lure Android users into downloading some irritating advertising apps on the Google Play Store.

The apps masquerade as cheat sheets for the games but, once downloaded, infiltrate your administrator privileges and promote full-page advertisements that are a nightmare to remove.

The apps pose as Cheats for Pou, Guide For SubWay and Cheats For Subway, and have since been removed after Eset, which discovered the trio, pointed it out to Google.

Eset’s main problem with the apps was not their luring titles, or even their content, but the creative way they shield themselves from being uninstalled.

Although the fact that cheats for Subway Surfers are the exact same as those included on the Pou variant is a bit insultingly lazy.

Popping up every half hour or so with advertisements, simply hitting ‘uninstall’ doesn’t work. When you install it in the first place it seeks administrator privileges so the only way to overrule it is to go into your settings, device administrators, and unticking their boxes.

This, Eset points out, is a handy way to get around numerous similar apps like this (below, click to view in a larger format).

Eset Ad Display

The trio has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, which, considering the true games have been downloaded in the hundreds of millions, is understandable.

It gets by Google’s App Store Bouncer by reacting to any searches of its functionality. If the Bouncer is around, the ads don’t appear. Once the Bouncer lets it by, it has achieved its first goal.

“These applications were designed to display advertisements, hiding themselves behind cheats for popular, heavily-downloaded applications,” explained Eset’s Urban Schrott.

“Interesting techniques… have allowed them to slip by Google Play’s security filter, Bouncer.

“This is one example when even an AdDisplay [apps] could be very annoying and hard to uninstall from a device.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic