35 million Android users hit with adware — delete these apps now

Green skull on smartphone screen.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Even if you’re downloading new Android apps from an official app store like the Google Play Store, you still need to be careful as bad apps do manage to slip past Google’s defenses from time to time.

When we talk about bad apps, most of the time we’re referring to malicious apps that contain malware, but another threat to look out for is adware apps. While not nearly as dangerous as malicious apps, adware apps can put your privacy at risk as well as your devices themselves, since they use additional resources when loading ads in the background to make money for their creators.

As reported by BleepingComputer, a set of 38 adware apps have been discovered on the Play Store that have been downloaded by 35 million Android users to date. Although the apps in question have been downloaded all over the world, it’s mainly users from the U.S., Canada, South Korea and Brazil that have fallen for these ones.

As is the case with other copycat apps, these 38 adware apps are actually Minecraft clones downloaded by users — most likely children — that were unwilling or unable to pay the $6.99 to download the official Minecraft Android app from Mojang.

Delete these apps right now

These 35 Minecraft clones found spreading adware on the Play Store were discovered by the cybersecurity firm McAfee which published its findings in a new blog post. Although these apps aren’t dangerous in the way that malicious apps are, it’s still recommended that you delete them from your smartphone immediately if you have them installed.

Here is the full list of Minecraft clone adware apps, along with how many times they’ve been downloaded from the Play Store:

  • Block Box Master Diamond - 10m+
  • Craft Sword Mini Fun  - 5m+
  • Block Box Skyland Sword - 5m+
  • Craft Monster Crazy Sword - 5m+
  • Block Pro Forrest Diamond - 1m+
  • Block Game Skyland Forrest - 1m+
  • Block Rainbow Sword Dragon - 1m+
  • Craft Rainbow Mini Builder - 1m+
  • Block Forrest Tree Crazy - 1m+
  • Craft Clever Monster Castle - 500k+
  • Block Monster Diamond Dragon - 500k+
  • Craft World Fun Robo - 500k+
  • Block Pixelart Tree Pro - 500k+
  • Craft Mini Lucky Fun - 500k+
  • Block Earth Skyland World - 500k+
  • Block Rainbow Monster Castle - 500k+
  • Block Fun Rainbow Builder - 500k+
  • Craft Dragon Diamond Robo - 500k+
  • Block World Tree Monster - 100k+
  • Block Diamond Boy Pro - 100k+
  • Block Lucky Master Earth - 100k+
  • Craft Forrest Mini Fun - 100k+
  • Craft Sword City Pro - 100k+
  • Block Loki Monster Builder - 100k+
  • Block Boy Earth Mini - 100k+
  • Block Crazy Builder City - 100k+
  • Craft Sword Vip Pixelart - 100k+
  • Block City Fun Diamond - 100k+
  • Craft City Loki Rainbow - 100k+
  • Craft Boy Clever Sun - 100k+
  • Block City Dragon Sun - 100k+
  • Craft Loki Forrest Monster - 100k+
  • Lokicraft: Forrest Survival 3D - 50k+
  • Craft Castle Sun Rain - 50k+
  • Craft Game Earth World - 50k+
  • Craft Lucky Castle Builder - 50k+
  • Craftsman: Building City 2022 - 50k+
  • Craftsman: Building City 2022 - 50k+
  • Craft Rainbow Pro Rain - 50k+

After discovering these 35 adware apps as part of its work as an App Defense Alliance member, McAfee subsequently reported them to Google and they have all been removed from the Play Store. However, if you have any of these apps installed on your devices or more likely your child’s tablet or smartphone, you will need to manually delete them.

Poor smartphone performance? Adware may be to blame

A frustrated man looking at his smartphone

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Just like with a mobile malware infection, having an adware app on your smartphone can seriously slow it down and lead to overheating, increased data usage and poor battery life.

Normally when this happens, users with adware installed on their smartphones may immediately notice the performance loss they’re experiencing. However, since these were Minecraft clones after all, infected users likely thought these slowdowns were caused by the games themselves and not the adware they were running in the background.

Another reason these adware apps may have been hard to spot is that the ads were loaded in the background once these games were launched but nothing was displayed on a user’s screen. Network traffic analysis by McAfee showed that suspicious network packets from ad libraries were exchanged in the background.

If your smartphone is suddenly showing signs of a slowdown, it’s worth going through the list of apps you currently have installed as you could potentially have an adware app running in the background.

How to stay safe from adware apps

Unlike with malicious apps where installing one of the best Android antivirus apps on your smartphone can keep you safe, the same can’t be said for adware. 

Adware apps aren’t considered as dangerous as malicious ones and since all of the ads are loaded in the background once one of these apps is running, they have a better chance of making it through Google’s security checks for the Play Store. For this reason, it’s up to you when it comes to avoiding them.

The adage “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a great one to keep in mind here. Scammers and even cybercriminals often target users that may not be able or willing to pay for an official version of a game like Minecraft by creating copycat apps. These apps are far from the real deal but for those with an itch to play a particular game that lack the funds to purchase it outright, they can help fill the gap.

A happy family using devices connected to the internet

(Image credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Since apps like these are more likely to be installed by children, you can use one of the best parental control apps to keep a closer eye on how they use their tablets or smartphones. At the same time, you want to ensure that you need to enter a password or use your fingerprint to download any new apps from the Play Store. It’s also important that you talk to your children about the dangers of downloading new apps onto their devices and warn them about how sideloading apps can make them vulnerable to hackers.

These Minecraft clone apps spreading adware may have been removed from the Play Store but the minute the next big game comes around, expect to see scammers do the exact same thing all over again.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.