Android has 2.5 billion users around the world and they all need to be on high alert after Google confirmed millions of users have been affected by dangerous new scams that came directly from the Play Store.
The news comes following an investigation by Avast. The security specialist found 151 Google Play store-approved apps masquerading as games, custom keyboards, photo editors, QR code scanners and more, contain scams which trick users into receiving premium-SMS subscriptions which charge them up to $40 per month. And these apps have been downloaded over 10 million times by Android users from more than 80 counties, including the US.
Avast warns that these scam payments can “go unnoticed for weeks or months” and even if affected users uninstall these apps, the charges will continue. Avast says the only way to stop them is to contact your carrier and request receipt of all premium SMS messages is disabled.
In response, Google has confirmed Avast’s findings and removed all 151 malicious apps from the Play Store. This stops new users from being scammed, but those who have already downloaded the apps will continue to be in trouble until they are both uninstalled and your carrier is contacted. Avast has a full list of all the scam apps, which you would be wise to check.
Google is not alone in approving damaging apps into its official store. Apple has repeatedly made headlines this year (1,2,3,4,5) for approving “factories” of scam apps in the App Store and even accidentally promoting them. Court documentation earlier this year also revealed Eric Friedman, Apple’s head of Fraud Engineering Algorithms and Risk, had described App Store security as “bringing a plastic butter knife to a gunfight” and “more like the pretty lady who greets you… at the Hawaiian airport than the drug-sniffing dog”.
So beware: just because an app makes it into the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, that doesn’t automatically mean it is safe. Carefully check reviews and remain vigilant.
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