Adverts are everywhere, especially on the Internet. On pages, before or during videos, in between songs, and it’s something you get used to and mostly accept. Especially when browsing or streaming free content, as you know that the creators or developers have to be compensated somehow. So, most people are happy to experience ads if it means they themselves don’t have to part with their cash.
Having said this, recently there has been some news of ad fraud, which is bad news for both users/consumers and advertisers themselves. Some users have reported finding ads from certain apps popping up when the apps have actually been closed. Some of these ads have appeared on their phone home screen, and even covered up app icons, thus interfering with their actual phone interface.
Not only do these ads appearing out of place come as an invasion of privacy, but they prevent advertisers accurately measuring the effectiveness of their ads. They can even put a strain on the phone’s CPU, causing it to run slower and drain the battery faster.
1. Free VPN Master
We downloaded this app from the Play Store. Then we reversed it to give a more transparent view of how it works with advertising. The classes.dex allowed a view of how the app actually works when installed on users’ devices. Its APK was reversed in order to extract the code, and look further into the inner workings of this VPN.
The application was found to use Google’s advertising API. But its packages didn’t work in exactly the same way, having some minor differentials between them. Either way, this came as somewhat of a concern to us, especially considering the nature of the app itself. Another reason why certain Android VPN apps are a risk.
2. Hotspot VPN
This particular app had been downloaded from the Play Store, and then ‘reversed’. This allowed a deeper look into the application – layout, images, specs, and usability – to see how it works behind the scenes. This way we could really look into how it uses advertisements.
We extracted the code and found the API from Google. This means that it’s actually able to show adverts whenever it wants to. The app was also found to be using the Facebook API for its advertising as well. This goes to show the true nature of various Android VPN apps.
Attention: Read before you continue
Governments and ISPs across the world monitor their users online activities. If found streaming or browsing content on your Fire TV Stick, mobile or PC, you could get into serious trouble. Currently, your IP is visible to everyone. We strongly recommend you to get a good VPN and hide your identity so that your online experience doesn’t take a bad turn.
We use IPVanish which is the fastest and most secure VPN in the industry. It is very easy to install on any device including Amazon Fire TV Stick. Also, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t like their service, you can always ask for a refund. IPVanish also runs a limited time offer where you can save 57% on your VPN and they allow you to use one account on unlimited devices. This is a flash sale that can expire at any time.
3. Security Master
Within this app, a list of byte codes was identified in its design structure. By utilizing these codes, the app is able to decide and validate whether or not certain ads should be shown to the uses. Depending on the user in question and the properties set within the app, certain ads are shown or not. Again, this was largely based on the user’s location and previous or current browsing history and activity.
Having said that, this can differ depending on whether it’s accessed by a web browser, or through an app in a mobile device. Within the package inside the app, there were ads for companies such as Google, GitHub, Facebook, and Airbnb.
4. Secure VPN
We followed the same process with this VPN. This way, we got a look into its packages in relation to how it uses advertising. We found a code internally that showed how the app monitors user’s activity when they’re online, taking account things such as their clicks, viewing, and other activity.
This allows the app to cater ads based specifically on user activity. There was more too. A code was also found that manages its Google API, and some parts were soon to request certain ads. There was also a list of classes found that manage how ads are processed and then displayed to the user. These classes decide both which ads to show and how exactly to show them.
The ads are often displayed differently depending on the user’s location, age and online activity. There was also code found that was able to both read and write logs within the SD card. But there was no specific evidence found of this having happened.
VPNs can be a crucial way for you to stay safe online and remain anonymous to both your ISP and your local government. But by downloading free or cheaply designed VPN services, there are some drawbacks. This is mainly in the form of ads.
Not only are these spammy and have slow speeds, but they can also bombard you with ads, and actually access your private and personal data in order to do this effectively. The moral of the story from us is to pick a proper high-quality VPN such as IPVanish. This way, you won’t encounter any issues when it comes to speed, but will also rest assured that all of your private information is safe and secure.
Let us know in the comments what Android VPN app you use!