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Girl flags massive iOS ad scam campaign targeting kids

Carefully read reviews: Adware and scam apps can be hard to recognise, as they are often disguised as entertainment apps like gaming apps, for example. According to a report by ArsTechnica these apps were posing as apps for entertainment, wallpaper images, or music downloads.

Avast classified the apps as HiddenAds trojans. The report shares example of several horoscope apps that are trying to sign up subscriptions worth more than $70 per week - not when users press the subscribe button, but when they press the "back" button on their phones.

"The apps we discovered are scams and violate both Google's and Apple's app policies by either making misleading claims around app functionalities, or serving ads outside of the app and hiding the original app icon soon after the app is installed", said Avast threat analyst Jakub Vávra.

Check permissions: Before downloading apps, users should check the permissions the app is requesting and consider if they make sense for the app to function properly.

Avast determined that these apps were being promoted by at least three TikTok profiles - one of which had over 300,000 followers. The short-form video app, the subject of much drama between the Trump administration and the app's parent company ByteDance, played a pivotal role in the discovery of these apps. These apps were managing to successfully stay hidden till this little girl reported a TikTok profile promoting one of the apps to Avast's Be Safe Online project in the Czech Republic. Acting on the tip, researchers from security firm Avast found 11 apps, for devices running both iOS and Android, that were engaged in similar scams. They served intrusive ads, even when they weren't open in the foreground. Young kids who are mostly not aware and are unable to recognise the red flags surrounding such malicious apps and fall prey to them. Avast also discovered an Instagram profile with over 5,000 followers promoting these apps. But as of the writing of this article, numerous fraudulent iOS apps are still available on the App Store.

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