(Credit: TrifonenkoIvan/Shutterstock)

Over the past couple years, the Android ecosystem has seen a rise of apps that pretend to be one thing while doing quite another. Sometimes the real purpose of the app is to harvest your personal data and sell it to intermediaries who sell it to advertisers, malicious hackers or anyone else who can afford the fee.

But other times, fraud is inflicted on the advertisers themselves, by tricking them into thinking that their ads are getting seen when they actually remain invisible to the user. The latest shenanigans are about a piece of malware dubbed DrainerBot, which was just discovered by Oracle Data Cloud researchers.

SEE: How to use a virtual private network (VPN) to increase your internet privacy

Of course, regular users of the internet may not be all that sympathetic about advertisers getting scammed, but DrainerBot has a particularly nasty angle to it: According to Oracle's cybersecurity experts, this malware can download tens of gigabytes of (invisible) video ads every month, which affects your data fees and your Android device's battery drain.

If that wasn't enough, DrainerBot may also make your phone or tablet feel sluggish, due to the constant stream of invisible videos being processed by your device.

Plus, the apps that use this malware don't even need to be open for DrainerBot's data and battery drain to occur. Thankfully, Oracle's "Moat" analytics division has instructions for mitigating DrainerBot if you find one of its app partners on your device -- and unsurprisingly, the first recommendation is to uninstall the offending app, rather than trying to limit its activity.

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Oracle traces the source of this malware to a Dutch company called Tapcore, the maker of an Android software developer kit (SDK). An SDK is a set of programming tools that make it easier to design an app, and Tapcore claims over 3,000 customers on its website. Oracle estimates that apps with this SDK have been downloaded over 10 million times altogether.

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a master list of all apps that use Tapcore's SDK, so Moat's instructions are more about identifying a pattern of unusual device behavior. However, some apps are specifically mentioned: Draw Clash of Clans, Perfect365, Solitaire: 4 Seasons (Full), Touch 'n' Beat - Cinema and VertexClub.

Takeaways

  • Researchers at Oracle have uncovered an apparent ad fraud network called DrainerBot that streams invisible video ads to your device, draining its battery and potentially costing you a lot of money in mobile data fees.
  • Oracle says that over 3,000 apps use the software developer kit that contains DrainerBot, and that these apps have been downloaded a total of over 10 million times.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.