Google Play app with 500,000 downloads sent user contacts to Russian server

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A robotic hand tries to activate a smartphone.

An Android app with greater than 500,000 downloads from Google Play has been caught internet hosting malware that surreptitiously sends customers’ contacts to an attacker-controlled server and indicators up customers to expensive subscriptions, a safety agency reported.

The app, named Color Message, was nonetheless out there on Google servers on the time this put up was being ready. Google eliminated it greater than three hours after I requested the corporate for remark.

Ostensibly, Color Message enhances textual content messaging by doing issues corresponding to including emojis and blocking junk texts. But in accordance to researchers at Pradeo Security said on Thursday, Color Message comprises a household of malware generally known as Joker, which has infected millions of Android units in the past.

“Our analysis of the Color Message application through the Pradeo Security engine shows that it accesses users’ contact list and exfiltrates it over the network,” the corporate’s weblog put up said. “Simultaneously, the application automatically subscribes to unwanted paid services unbeknownst to users. To make it difficult to be removed, the application has the capability to hide its icon once installed.”

Pradeo’s discovery marks solely the most recent occasion of Google internet hosting malicious wares that hurt customers of its Android cell working system. While the corporate scans apps for malware and commonly removes large numbers of submissions proactively, there’s no scarcity of apps Google misses. The frequent studies of rogue apps out there by Play tarnishes an in any other case clear safety scorecard for the cell OS, at the least because it’s out there on Google-developed Pixel units.

Joker falls right into a class of malware generally known as Fleeceware. It simulates clicks and intercepts textual content messages in an try to surreptitiously subscribe customers to paid premium companies they by no means meant to purchase. Joker is difficult to detect due to the tiny footprint of its code and the strategies its builders use to stash it. Over the previous few years, the malware has been discovered lurking in a whole lot of apps downloaded by tens of millions of individuals.

Besides sending customers’ contacts to a server that seems to be situated in Russia and subscribing to undesirable companies, Color Message additionally fails to disclose the extent of the actions the app can carry out on customers’ units.

As regular, Android customers must be circumspect earlier than downloading apps. A very good rule of thumb is to obtain apps solely once they present a real profit after which to select ones made by identified corporations, when potential. People also needs to learn the user opinions to see if there are studies of malice.

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