Google's Play store came under fierce scrutiny over the weekend when researchers from security firm CheckPoint revealed that a type of malware ('malicious software') had been found in over 60 gaming apps. This malware strain has been dubbed 'AdultSwine'.

What is 'AdultSwine'?

'AdultSwine' is a type of malware which infects gaming apps, many of which are available to both adults and children, by showing pornographic adverts.

Not only does 'AdultSwine' show inappropriate content, it also attempts to persuade users to download additional malware, such as compromised 'security apps'. By displaying advertisements in the victim's web browser, 'AdultSwine' alerts the user that their device has been 'infected', thus prompting them to download corrupted anti-virus software.

It also encourages users to sign up for premium services, such as text messaging scams otherwise known as 'smishing'. These services charge the victim expensive text rates.

Not only can this type of malware have significant financial implications, it can also cause emotional harm.

How many children have been affected?

While the number of children who have been exposed to this explicit material is currently unknown, Google Play store data shows that some of the apps have been downloaded between three to seven million times.

The most popular apps were a game called 'Five Nights Survival Craft' which had been downloaded five million times.

Another popular, infected app targeted towards children was called 'Mcqueen Car Racing Game' and had up to one million downloads.

A spokesperson for Google Play confirmed these apps had now been removed from the store.

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They have also disabled the developer's accounts and are currently advertising warnings to anyone who has downloaded the 60 corrupted apps.

How to avoid similar situations

'AdultSwine' has been a particularly deceptive type of malware, because it infiltrates legitimate gaming apps which have passed Google Play's stringent vetting procedures. However, there are some precautions you can take to avoid downloading similar apps:

  • Use anti-virus software from legitimate and reputable organisations such as Norton or McAfee and ensure it is kept up-to-date.
  • Make sure your device's operating system is updated and has the latest patches.
  • Always check the app's permissions and privacy policies. As a rule of thumb, it's good to know what information the app wants from you and how this information will be used. Also, make sure to review your privacy settings after downloading an app.
  • If you download an app which asks for your phone number, make sure you know what the app really does in order to avoid being charged premium rate SMS messages.
  • If it seems too good to be true or 'phishy' it probably is.

How to report Cyber Crime

If you have experienced, or are experiencing phishing communications or malicious software which is negatively affecting your device you should report it to Action Fraud.