According to a report from BuzzFeed News, eight Android applications, with more than a combined 2 billion downloads at Play Store, have been caught misusing user permissions to make money.
The report mentions that seven out of eight apps in question are owned by Cheetah Mobile, a renowned Chinese name. The eighth app is owned by Kika Tech, another Chinese company with its head office in Silicon Valley.
The 8 apps in question are:
- Clean Master
- Security Master
- CM Launcher 3D
- Kika Keyboard
- Battery Doctor
- Cheetah Keyboard
- CM Locker
- CM File Manager
These apps are found to be involved in a massive ad fraud scheme. They abuse the app permissions to monitor new app downloads and hijack the app installation commissions.
Due to this practice, the app developers who pay bounties for driving new app installations are being ripped off. The report suggests that the apps in question track when users download a new app and use this information to claim the installation bounty.
When it comes to the users of these apps, they might find their phone’s battery getting drained at a faster pace and spiked data usage as well.
“This is theft — no other way to say it,” said Kochava, an app analytics firm that shared its findings with BuzzFeed. “These are real companies doing it — at scale — not some random person in their basement,” he said.
In a fresh statement, Cheetah Mobile has claimed that this could be due to rogue behavior of SDKs from different ad platforms. On the other hand, Kika Tech has denied any intentions of engaging in such ad fraud practices.