Malware charges users for free Android apps on Google Play

Malware charges users for free Android apps on Google Play

Summary: Android users are being tricked into paying for free apps. The malware is a new variant of the Android.Opfake family that pushes fake versions of popular Android apps to unsuspecting consumers.

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Symantec has discovered a new variant of Android.Opfake that directs Android device owners to install fake apps for a fee; these apps are actually available for free on the Google Play store. The apps in question are hosted on dedicated sites as well as fake app markets.

Android malware is on the rise. There have been many fake versions of Android apps (see links below) that try to cash in by sending expensive SMS messages. This is different as the money is only generated when users try to get more apps.

Above, the first two screenshots are what happens after you download, install, and open the app. It looks as if a second installation runs. When this fake installation completes, you are asked to confirm an agreement and continue by clicking a button. The agreement is actually a link at the bottom of the screen in the screenshot. If you read it, you'll find that you are being charged for using the app.

It's difficult to notice this, but that's the whole point. Cyber criminals are trying to trick the users in order to take their money.

You are then prompted to open up a website, as seen in the third screenshot. This one gives you a list of fake apps to install. Curiously, the first one simply takes you to the app on Google Play that you already installed. It shows that the app in question is actually free.

Please only install apps from Google Play unless you are absolutely certain who wrote the software you want to install. Fighting malware isn't just the responsibility of security firms: you also have to be smart about what you install.

See also:

Topics: Android, Apps, Google, Hardware, Malware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Security, Smartphones

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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8 comments
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  • At least it's open

    Unlike Apple's walled garden
    jbravo556
    • Who cares how the malware is delivered?

      Open or closed, who cares? Android is still the #1 targeted platform for malware. With an open platform, does that mean you get a better class of malware?
      Your Non Advocate
      • It means you get to install what you want

        If the platform is open, it means you get to install the software you want. Whether you choose to install legitimate software or Trojans instead is up to you. The reason there are more Trojans targeted at Android users is because Android users are more free to install any kind of software, Trojans unfortunately included.

        Theoretically, Android should be the best of both worlds: a software repository for people who want to stay in the "walled garden" as well as the option to switch on the ability to sideload apps (the key to the garden) for those who want to install something outside the repository.

        There are just two problems with this. One is that there are always users who, when given the power to hurt themselves, will, regardless of how strongly you warn them. The other is that Google has made blunders in the past about keeping malware out of their repository, which is supposed to be safe. Google seems to be doing better about this now, but until they have a longer track record, I'm still a bit wary about what software I choose from Google Play.
        CFWhitman
      • Sarcasm, buler?

        I guess I said it with a too serious face with no qualifiers.

        I was pointing out what android fans keep parading as an advantage.
        jbravo556
    • Yeah, that's a great benefit

      Except so much time is spent fending off stinkbugs ...

      But before posters here start gloating about Apple's walled garden, think about the excitement you're missing when you install an Android app. Is it real? Is it a virus? Am I being scammed? That's great for cardio, let me tell you.
      harvey_rabbit
  • Whether it's open or closed...

    ...doesn't matter. Whether the user had to side load or authorize the installation of the malware doesn't matter.

    Both Apple (OS X) and Google (Android) have been in the news of late for malware incidents. While much of it could have been avoided with a little vigilance on the user's side, guess what? Users, as a whole, aren't very savvy. So whether it's their fault or not, they're going to get bad press as a result.

    Remember when McDonald's got sued because a woman held a hot cup of coffee between her legs and got burned? And more importantly, what did McDonalds (and everyone else who sells coffee do as result? They put warning labels on their cups to state the obvious for the idiots of the world. Google, Apple, MS, etc. all need to take the same approach and begin educating users on malware, ID theft, etc.

    MS seems to have done more than the other two thus far, but even with theirs, it's more "if you look for it, you can find it." Why don't they all put down their swords for a minute, pool some of their earnings, and put together some PSAs that run on radio, TV and the web?
    TroyMcClure
  • Every now and then, I come across these "Android is Touble"...

    ...articles and become more relieved of my decision to stick with freed iOS devices :) Nothing an Android device can do can't be done by today's top class iOS devices (and even some old class, like 3GS n iPad 1).

    You name it, there's a ported app for that available via Cydia. Tweak it to look and function like an Android, BB (no need for BBM when u got iMessage :p ) or even WP if you so desire; yet the trouble from those ends just never cross over :)

    Now you say it's all about "Market Share"? Think again. If only Google were mature enough to take responsibility over monitoring the Android market like cr_Apple does with the AppStore, only 0.000001% (you get it) of these issues would exist. Yet, Android would still be more tweak-able right out of the box. But no, doing such stuff would break the Law of open source :p
    MrElectrifyer
  • dont use visa then

    happy im newer can use visa. its just like to be i heaven when you use money. and then get screwed allo ver again. yep allo allo. just first go for a android emulator test it use it from pc.then scan it wait few monts then hope its nor maleware. is it so unsafe to be a apple user. then i will stay with windows and mac who can be formated and reinststalled all over again. yeah we love free but i can be dangerous too. so dont even trust that youre friends havet you gotta have it. make a nother acount for visa and on for real money.never combine them. then you and kids may lose money. malware marked are tricky. no antivirus no malvare comes with youre exspensive ipa pod droid and so on. jus connect them to pc and let computer scan troug youre 32gb 16 gb HD ive.
    kmo911