Malicious applications disguised as popular games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Assassin’s Creed and others have been used to steal £27.850 (approx. $43,650) from unsuspecting Android users in the U.K.
The fake applications were planted in the Android Market — now Google Play — late last year. Once installed on users’ devices, they sent three text messages to a premium rate number every single time they were opened, without the users’ knowledge. Because they were fake applications, they were non-functional, and so users often launched them several times to try to get them working.
Each text message cost its user £5 (approx. $7.84) a time, and some customers lost up to £80 (approx. $126). 1,391 users were affected by the scam, and although only 34 complained to regulator PhonepayPlus, it will be automatically issuing refunds to every single user who downloaded the malicious apps.
The applications first arrived in Google Play in mid-November last year, and by December 16 — after PhonepayPlus received its first complaint — they were pulled. The regulator then fined the apps’ developers, A1 Aggregator Ltd, £50,000 (approx. $78,366) — almost double what they earned from the scam.
Scams like this account for 36.4% of malware on smartphones, according to Juniper Research, and they’re the second-largest form of malware after spyware. Android handsets are more vulnerable than those powered by iOS or Windows Phone, because Google does not approve applications before they are uploaded to its Google Play store. It only deals with malicious applications after they’ve had chance to do damage.
Have you ever been affected by malicious smartphone apps?
[via The Telegraph]