According to a report from BuzzFeed News today, Eight Android apps with over 2 billion downloads in the Google Play Store have been involved in illegal advertisement practices.
All of the 8 apps directly or indirectly link to any Chinese company. Seven of the apps are owned by a Chinese company, Cheetah Mobile and the other one app is owned by Kika Tech, another Chinese company headquartered in Silicon Valley that received a significant investment from Cheetah in 2016.
According to an app analytics firm Kochava, both of these companies have been found to misuse the app permission in order to monitor new downloads and hijack app installation credit which could go as high as millions of dollars.
This scheme of ripping off the app developers involves these companies’ apps tracking when users downloaded new apps and then use this data to inappropriately claim credit for the attribution of the download.
The app developers pay a fee to partners who can help drive new installations of their apps.
Cheetah and Kika were involved in these practices and claimed credit from the app developers as a reward even when they played no role in an app’s installation.
The apps which are suspected to be involved in this scheme are Clean Master, CM File Manager, CM Launcher 3D, Security Master, Battery Doctor, CM Locker, and Cheetah Keyboard which are very popular apps have and have been downloaded millions of times in past few days and before. These apps are even promoted by Google Play Store as “go-to apps.”
Kika’s Keyboard app was also found to be involved and the way it worked is that it asked users for permission to read what was being typed and after getting the permission, it would then monitor for install bounties for apps that the user searched for.
Although both the companies have denied this report saying that some third-party SDKs were behind this.