Do you know Google Play Store Blocked Chinese App Developers? In June of this year, Lookout experts found that more than 440,000,000 users downloaded and installed from the official Google Play catalog 238 applications infected with the BeiTaPlugin advertising library.
The BeiTaPlugin SDK has existed since the beginning of 2018, and for the most part, it worked as originally intended: it provided application developers with a simple tool for displaying advertisements within their applications. The SDK was trusted by developers, as it was created by the famous Shanghai company CooTek, which used it as an advertising component for its own applications. For example, for the TouchPal keyboard installed over 100,000,000 times.
BeiTaPlugin began to abuse its capabilities only in the spring of this year. In February-March, developers began to notice that the number of advertisements and pop-up windows increased, and they appeared literally out of the blue, outside of running applications and blocked access to the screen and phone functions. In June, Lookout experts wrote that it was almost impossible to use the device because of such advertising: it interferes with answering calls, working with applications, and so on.
After that, Google engineers, who were notified of these abuses, demanded that the developers immediately update their programs and clean the applications from all traces of the malicious library. As a result, most of the applications found by Lookout were either updated or excluded from the catalog.
However, CooTek seems to have tried to circumvent the restrictions imposed by Google. After the publication of the Lookout study, CooTek developers strongly obfuscated the code of their advertising library, and as a result, updated, supposedly clean versions of applications appeared on Google Play Store. However, according to Lookout experts, who rechecked a number of Shanghai developers’ applications, although the advertising library of them disappeared, a tangled mess from the old and new code in at least 58 applications allowed them to continue working and demonstrate all the same malicious behavior and aggressive advertising. Of course, these advertising practices still violated the rules of Google Play, and now the company decided to take more drastic measures.
BuzzFeed News reports that currently hundreds of CooTek applications (including the TouchPal keyboard mentioned above) are being removed from the application catalog, as well as a Chinese company that has blocked Google’s advertising platforms for repeatedly breaking the rules. So, Google Play Store blocked Chinese App Developers.
CookTek representatives reject all allegations made by Lookout researchers, claiming that the experts have no evidence, and this time their accusations look “unconvincing.” The company assured that the applications were simply “temporarily disabled”, and Google’s actions would not interfere with their current users. The developers claim that they renewed their products in June and actually used pieces of old code in them to implement a number of basic functions, but there are no more malicious advertising activities in applications.
Nevertheless, Google experts disagree with this argument, obviously, they completely had the evidence provided by Lookout experts.
Let me remind you that this is not the first precedent of this kind. So, in 2018, Google Play Store banned a number of very popular applications of the large Chinese company Cheetah Mobile (one of the largest developers on Google Play at the time) and its subsidiary Kika Tech. The fact is that those applications also acted like a real Advair and made money on extremely aggressive advertising.