Some Android adware apps hide icons to make it hard to remove them

Uninstalling an app caught pushing adware is normally simple to deal with – click and drag it to the top right of the screen and into the trash can.

App gone, ideally followed up with a public-spirited one-star rating on the Google Play store to alert others to its bad behaviour.

But what happens if there’s no home screen or app tray icon?

New research by SophosLabs has discovered 15 on Google Play that install without icons as part of a campaign to keep themselves on the user’s device.

The motivation is to keep pushing obtrusive ads for as long as possible. But for some of the apps, the evasion doesn’t stop with disappearing icons.

For example, Flash On Calls & Messages (1 million installs since January 2019) tries to convince users it never installed properly in the first place.

When first launched, users are greeted with the message “This app is incompatible with your device!” The app then opens the Play store and navigates to the page for Google Maps to distract users from the nature of this failure.

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