Google has removed three Android apps from its Play Store and having them installed on your phone could leave you with a nasty bill. The Mountain View firm has purged its online marketplace after it found the trio of apps were capable of installing the notorious Joker bug. This infamous piece of malware steals money from Android users by secretly signing them up for costly subscription services which can be worth hundreds of pounds a year.
The Google Play Store apps – called Style Message, Blood Pressure App and Camera PDF Scanner – were all found to have Joker malware hidden on them by researchers at Kaspersky.
In a post online, Igor Golovin explained that bad actors are able to ensure Joker gets past Google’s security measures by having its malicious payload remain dormant during the vetting process, with the malicious functions only becoming active after the app goes live on the Play Store marketplace.
Golovin explained: “Trojans from the Trojan.AndroidOS.Jocker family can intercept codes sent in text messages and bypass anti-fraud solutions. They’re usually spread on Google Play, where scammers download legitimate apps from the store, add malicious code to them and re-upload them to the store under a different name. The trojanized apps fulfill their original purposes in most cases, and the user won’t suspect they are a source of threats.
“To bypass vetting on Google Play, the Trojan monitors whether it’s gone live. The malicious payload will remain dormant while the app is stalled at the vetting stage.”
The three Android apps have since been removed from the Google Play Store. But if you have already downloaded them prior to the programmes being taken down you’ll have to delete it from your phone.
As a reminder, the apps you need to be aware of – which have already been downloaded by thousands of Android users – are as follows…
• Style Message (com.stylelacat.messagearound),
• Blood Pressure App (blood.maodig.raise.bloodrate.monitorapp.plus.tracker.tool.health), and
• Camera PDF Scanner (com.jiao.hdcam.docscanner)
Advising people on how to stay safe, Kaspersky says even if you’re downloading an app from the Google Play Store make sure you check information such as reviews as well as details on the developer to see if the app is being made by a reputable or well-known name.
“Even if you trust an app, you should avoid granting it too many permissions. Only allow access to notifications for apps that need it to perform their intended purposes — for example, to transfer notifications to wearable devices. Apps for something like themed wallpapers or photo editing don’t need access to your notifications.”