Google has removed from the Google Play store the malware apps responsible for using computing power of Android-based mobile devices to mine cryptocurrency.
The apps identified were: Beating Heart Live Wallpaper, Men’s Club Live Wallpaper, Epic Smoke Live Wallpaper, Urban Pulse Live Wallpaper, and Anime Girls Live Wallpaper. Users had downloaded them under the belief that they were getting apps providing cool smartphone background images.
Instead, they used the device’s computing power to perform mining calculations in the background, rapidly draining its battery power. In some cases, it has been reported that the malware only mined while the device is charging.
Lookout, a company that creates security devices for mobile apps, identified the malware. Their system constantly scans new apps for malware. They have recommended users who have already installed the apps to remove them. They said in their blog:
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“Phones truly are tiny computers in your back pocket or purse. These devices are becoming more and more powerful, and people are starting to come up with ways to take advantage of that power.”
Michael Bentley, Lookout’s head of research and response, told the Los Angeles Times:
“Unless you have mobile security software that scans your apps, such as Lookout, it’d be hard to tell if you’re infected with mobile mining malware. However, if your phone is rapidly losing battery power, overheating, or generally behaving outside what you would consider normal, mobile mining malware could be the issue.”
The mobile malware is one of the latest ploys by hackers to hijack systems for coin mining. Other notable cases include DVR surveillance systems that were hacked with self-replicating malware, and Tidbit, an experiment by MIT students that replaces display advertising with bitcoin mining revenue.