How to Find and Remove Android Apps Showing Ads

By | February 25, 2022

My Android device just suggested/showed full screen popup ads to entice me. This came suddenly as something of a surprise.

But which malware is it? Here’s how to stop pop-up ads on Android.

There was a time when ads on Android were big news. Remember the Notification Area ad? They caused a bit of a storm when it became clear that promotional messages would soon start appearing at the top of your phone display, with AirPush and SlingLabs the only two companies allowing ads to appear there.

To solve this, opting out is the best solution, although you may prefer to follow our solution for dealing with this Notification Area attack.

With Notification Area ads (which can still impact users on older devices), it’s easy to identify the app responsible thanks to its icon that appears next to the ad on Android 4.1 and up.

Note that the screenshots in this article feature standard, non-adware applications serving.

How to Stop Popup Ads on Android?

Find your phone showing an unnecessary volume of ads, either in apps or on the home screen? It’s time for action.

The first thing you should do is close all your apps. Use the usual method of tapping the Recents button and swiping each app sideways to discard (or using the Clear All button if your Android version supports it).

You may also choose to restart your phone, which may be quicker.

Next, check the apps you installed recently, around the time the popup first appeared. This may be necessary if you regularly install new apps and games.

When you find a possible infringer, go to Google Play and check the app reviews. Does it have something to do with surprise ads? If so, delete that app. But don’t stop there! Check all the apps you recently installed.

How to Find Apps That Serve Popup Ads

What if the ad appears on the home screen without warning? Simply put, it’s adware, a form of malware, and something that can make some work to be tracked down.

As the Implementation Policy for AdMob program status:

“Ads may not be placed in locations that mask or hide areas of interest to the user during normal interactions. Ads may not be placed in areas where users will randomly click or place their finger on the screen. ”

Also, Google doesn’t look friendly to apps and games that spam users with ads:

“An application where an interstitial ad is placed after every user action, including but not limited to clicks, swipes, etc.”

You have two options for viewing popup ads.

Check Popup Ad Notifications

The latest version of Android has made it easy to know what is running on your device and what permissions the app is using. When you see notifications for apps you didn’t realize were active, that’s a good time to long-press the notification and tap the i button.

This will take you to the app’s permissions screen, where you can switch what it has to your phone’s hardware and features (such as contacts or mobile network). Further options can be found via Menu > All permissions.

From here, you’ll find full details for the app, which will reveal any associations; alternatively, you may find that the app is not what you thought it would be.
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Check Currently Open Apps

In addition to the notification area, you can check your open apps to see which ones are serving popups.

When the popup ad appears, press the Overview button (to the right of the Home button). When the open app is shuffled into a “deck”, long press the icon in the top left corner of the popup ad.

This will result in an i button appearing in the top right corner of the card. Again, tap this to access the app’s permissions.

Can’t Find Suspicious Apps

Perhaps the best option for anyone planning to use their phone or tablet without having to factory reset it is to use an anti-adware tool, a utility designed to detect ad serving malware.

The Ad Detection Plugin is probably the best place to start, a free app that will detect connections to ad networks from within your app. You may already know that some results show in-app ads. What you are looking for is anything that shows ads on your home screen.

With this app, you can tap the information button to see what type of ad is currently showing. From here, it’s easy to act from within the app to remove the offending software.

Download: Ad Detection Plugin

If you haven’t used a full mobile security app on your phone, then this is the best solution for dealing with ads. Options here include ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

Download: ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus | Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Ad Network Detector

You should also consider using an ad network detector. This app is designed to detect connections between your phone and known ad networks and block them. This should end the pop-up ads on your phone.

Some powerful options are available, but we believe you should take a look at AppBrain Ad Detector and Lookout Security & Antivirus (formerly Ad Network Detector). Addons Detector, meanwhile, provides you with information to investigate what ads are being shown by which apps, as well as where they are being served from. This may not be very useful, but it’s certainly worth noting that the information is available.

Download: AppBrain Ad Detector | Lookout Security & Antivirus | Addons Detector

Removing Ad-Serving Apps

For best results, you should uninstall the app to get rid of Android pop-up ads once and for all.

This is usually easy; just go to Settings > Apps and long tap the app. Select Uninstall to remove it.

Alternatively, the Uninstall tab on the app info screen, or from the home screen or app drawer, long tap and select Uninstall.

However, you may prefer a more extreme solution. The first is to restore a backup of your phone that was taken before the malicious ad serving malware was installed.

Alternatively, you can initiate a factory restore to delete all apps and data from your phone, delete them and start over. This is probably the most preferred option for most people, especially if you are very concerned about the ads being served.

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