Fake Android GPS apps that just show an ad and run Google Maps are running amok in the Play Store.
In total, 19 apps have been found to exhibit this behavior. They have accumulated more than 50 million installations to date.
As reported by Bleeping Computer, Lukas Stefanko, an Android security and malware researcher at ESET, discovered the apps in question. As he noted, they were designed to look authentic by using screenshots from other legitimate apps to trick users into downloading them.
They describe themselves as fully functional, but as mentioned earlier, they simply play ads and run Google Maps or use the product's API to show users' location on the screen.
Stefanko uploaded a video on Twitter to show how these apps work:
Purpose of these apps is ad revenue (easy money). They don't have any Navigation technology or know-how, they only misuse Google Maps. Once user clicks on Drive, Navigate, Route, My Location or other option, Google Maps app is opened. I reported it month ago. pic.twitter.com/ZB1j1GsBC8 — Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) January 17, 2019
He adds that he has reported them a month ago, but at the time of this writing, they're still up. He also mentions that these apps violate the licensing terms of the Maps platform. On top of that, they request for device permissions that a GPS app doesn't normally ask for.
The following are the apps that Stefanko found to be abusing Google Maps:
• Free GPS, Maps, Navigation & Directions
• Free-GPS, Maps, Navigation, Directions and Traffic
• GPS , Maps, Navigations & Directions
• GPS Live Street Map and Travel Navigation
• GPS Maps, Route Finder - Navigation, Directions
• GPS Navigation & Tracker
• GPS Route Finder - GPS, Maps, Navigation & Traffic
• GPS Satellite Maps
• GPS Street View, Navigation & Direction Maps
• GPS Voice Navigation Maps, Speedometer & Compass
• GPS, Maps & Navigation
• GPS, Maps, Navigations - Area Calculator
• Live Earth Map & Satellite View, GPS Tracking
• Live Earth Map 2019 - Satellite View, Street View
• Maps & GPS Navigation: Find your route easily!
• Maps GPS Navigation Route Directions Location Live
• Traffic Updates: GPS & Navigation
• Voice GPS Driving Directions, Gps Navigation, Maps
• Voice GPS Navigation Maps Driving
Needless to say, these Android apps have no other purpose but to generate ad revenue, abusing Google Maps in the process.