Google Play pulls 13 games after half a million users were tricked into installing malware

Google has pulled 13 driving games from its Google Play store after it was revealed they contained malware.

Malware and security researcher Lukas Stefanko (thanks,, reported on Twitter that combined, the 13 apps – all credited to a developer called Luiz O. Pinto – had been downloaded 560,000+ times. Two of the apps were trending at the time they were withdrawn from the storefront.

Once the game launches for the first time, it hides its own icon then downloads additional Android Package Kits, one of which is called “Game Center”, asking the user’s permission to install. Once it’s on the device, it hides itself and displays ads whenever the device is unlocked. According to TechCrunch, the malware “has persistence”, as well as “full access” to the device’s network traffic and data.

Google spokesperson Scott Westover told TechCrunch the apps “violated [ Google’s ] policies and have been removed from the Play Store”.

Google Play recently announced the finalists for its Change the Game design competition. Designed to promote gender diversity and encourage more women into video game careers, the program challenged teens to design a game for the chance to win a $10,000 college scholarship and $15,000 for their school’s or community centre’s technology program. All five games are now available, for free, on the Google Play store. Not only do the top finalists get a college scholarship, they also secure a scholarship to attend Girls Make Games Summer Camp, plus trips to Los Angeles, California, to attend E3.

“Of the millions of people in the United States who enjoy games on Google Play, 49% are women. Yet only 23% of game developers are women,” the website states. “We launched Change The Game in December of 2017 on a mission to make mobile gaming truly for everyone by celebrating and empowering women as players and creators. To do this, we’re committed to launching programs and initiatives in three areas: promoting diversity in and of games, empowering the next generation of game makers, and celebrating women who are changing the game.”

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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