35M installed these 38 apps that sneakily use your device for ad revenue — got 'em on your phone?

Illustration depicting thief stealing money from phone
(Image credit: Getty Images/nicoletaionescu)

Is your Android phone a little slower than usual, especially after installing a new game from the Google Play Store? There's a chance that it could have HiddenAds malware,

In case you missed it, McAfee published a report last week regarding its discovery of 38 Android apps infected with HiddenAds malware. According to the researchers, a whopping 35 million users worldwide downloaded the apps, and adding insult to injury, these apps were caught using victims' devices to generate advertising revenue for shady actors.

Which 38 Android apps are affected?

McAfee investigators found that these 38 infected apps were games — Minecraft rip-offs, to be exact. For example, one app called Block Box Master Diamond, attracting 10 million downloads, appeals to Android users who want that Minecraft-style experience, but don't to pay $6.99 to experience it.

Block Box Master Diamond

(Image credit: McAfee)

Here are the rest of the games caught red-handed with HiddenAds malware:

  • Craft Sword Mini Fun
  • Block Box Skyland Sword
  • Craft Monster Crazy Sword
  • Block Pro Forrest Diamond
  • Block Game Skyland Forrest
  • Block Rainbow Sword Dragon
  • Craft Rainbow Mini Builder
  • Block Forrest Tree Crazy
  • Craft Clever Monster Castle
  • Block Monster Diamond Dragon
  • Craft World Fun Robo
  • Block Pixelart Tree Pro
  • Craft Mini Lucky Fun
  • Block Earth Skyland World
  • Block Rainbow Monster Castle
  • Block Fun Rainbow Builder
  • Craft Dragon Diamond Robo
  • Block World Tree Monster
  • Block Diamond Boy Pro
  • Block Lucky Master Earth
  • Craft Forrest Mini Fun
  • Craft Sword City Pro
  • Block Loki Monster Builder
  • Block Boy Earth Mini
  • Block Crazy Builder City
  • Craft Sword VIP Pixelart
  • Block City Fun Diamond
  • Craft City Loki Rainbow
  • Craft Boy Clever Sun
  • Block City Dragon Sun
  • Craft Loki Forrest Monster
  • Lokicraft: Forrest Survival 3D
  • Craft Castle Sun Rain
  • Craft Game Earth World
  • Craft Lucky Castle Builder
  • Craftsman Building City 2022
  • Craft Rainbow Pro Rain

As mentioned, according to McAfee, these apps have been found sending packets "steathily for advertising revenue in bulk." In other words, malicious actors are sneakily using victims' devices to obtain illegitimate commissions from affiliate programs. HiddenAds malware can also degrade your phone's performance and browsing speed, so if you're noticing significant slowdowns after downloading an app from a Google Play Store, something in the milk isn't clean.

Fortunately, McAfee notified Google about these 38 infected apps, and they're no longer in the Play Store, but make sure they aren't lingering on your device, causing unnecessary havoc.

Although these apps have been downloaded by Android users all over the world, users from the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Korea were most affected.

The moral of the story? Just pay the $6.99 to play Minecraft. As they say, if an app is free, you're the product.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!