‘Joker’ Malware In Numerous Google Play Apps, Downloaded Nearly 500,000 Times

A 3D printed Android mascot in front of a Google logo in this illustration
A 3D printed Android mascot, Bugdroid, seen in front of a Google logo in this illustration taken July 9, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

The Google Play store at the present is swarming with malware-filled apps and sketchy developer practices. Google is aware of it and has already started to remove some of these.

According to 9to5Google, the company removed an additional 24 malware-heavy applications that exist at the Google Play. Alarmingly, these apps have already been downloaded nearly 500,000 times. Google is now hard at pursuing all these problematic apps and eliminating them from its online app marketplace.

Google already removed many developers and applications from the PlayStore after reports of their existence were made. The latest ones removed were discovered by the cybersecurity firm CSIS Security Group. Their research showed that among the infected apps exist the "Joker" malware.

What makes this malware scary is that it can sign users people to premium subscription services without them knowing, steal their SMS messages and contacts, as well as rob critical device information, not limited to the serial and IMEI numbers. The malware can silently or stealthily click on ads and then simultaneously accessing the verification codes that these ads will send through SMS. They will use these verification codes to sign up to these premium subscriptions, all without the users knowing!

The CSIS released the names of the 24 apps with this malware. Users with these apps should immediately remove them. These are:

1. Advocate Wallpaper

2. Age Face

3. Altar Message

4. Antivirus Security - Security Scan

5. Beach Camera

6. Board picture editing

7. Certain Wallpaper

8. Climate SMS

9. Collate Face Scanner

10. Cute Camera

11. Dazzle Wallpaper

12. Declare Message

13. Display Camera

14. Great VPN

15. Humour Camera

16. Ignite Clean

17. Leaf Face Scanner

18. Mini Camera

19. Print Plant scan

20. Rapid Face Scanner

21. Reward Clean

22. Ruddy SMS

23. Soby Camera

24. Spark Wallpaper

Security researcher Aleksejs Kuprins said that the malware was designed to target users specifically in 37 countries, including the US, UK, and Australia. Certain EU and Asian countries are also affected as well. Still, most of these apps did not have any region restrictions so essentially everyone around the world can be affected.

Kuprins added that these 24 apps are not likely to be the last. More can be discovered down the road. The security researcher, however, said that with Google's efforts, users need not fear anymore. "Google has been removing all of these apps without any note from us," Kuprins said. Future apps with this malware are not likely to last long with Google's efforts.

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