Android App Is Actually Wallet-Draining Malware

By Nathan Kamal | Published

android malware

Smartphones were supposed to make life better, or at least easier. The idea of having a handheld supercomputer that acts as a virtual personal assistant, exercise tracker, and sometimes phone has been the dream ever since we saw Captain James T. Kirk barking orders into one on the original Star Trek. However, it seems they have become just one more of life’s problems as reports are out that literally dozens of Android apps are infected with malware designed to covertly steal personal data and find ways to take your money. This is not what we wanted the brave new world to be about. 

According to a report from PCMag, a new batch of Android apps with infectious malware have been discovered. This is by no means the first (or likely, last) time that applications freely available on the Google Play app store have been discovered to be potentially harmful to users, but it is a particularly bad instance. It seems that Russian anti-malware company Doctor Web discovered a collection of 36 different Android apps that harbor malware disguising themselves as innocuous “free” apps. The apps in question included services for photo and video editing, virtual keyboards, system optimizers, wallpaper changes, note functions, and interface skins. While many of the Android apps actually did perform the tasks they advertised, they also included malware intended to bilk money from unsuspecting users. 

Much of the malware in question had the same strategies. Some used code changes to guide a user’s phone to subscribe to premium (ie, non-free) services without their knowledge or explicit permission. Others mined personal data from phones that could then be sold to others or used to access social media accounts (which presumably leads to more data being stolen). Some disguised themselves as online dating apps but would attempt to engage in an AI chat that would try to charge for conversation. Some simply forced unwanted pop-up ads onto phones and attempted to make interacting with them impossible to avoid. 

Many of these Android apps filled with malware attempt to immediately disguise themselves upon being downloaded by prompting permissions to change their icon logos, descriptions, and locations. The hope is generally that they will evade notice by users and not be deleted. Some malware apparently asks for permission not to be shut down automatically by power-saving functions, which allows them to run constantly in the background. Here is the list of harmful apps so far identified:

  • Photo Editor: Beauty Filter (gb.artfilter.tenvarnist)
  • Photo Editor: Retouch & Cutout (de.nineergysh.quickarttwo)
  • Photo Editor: Art Filters (gb.painnt.moonlightingnine)
  • Photo Editor – Design Maker (gb.twentynine.redaktoridea)
  • Photo Editor & Background Eraser (de.photoground.twentysixshot)
  • Photo & Exif Editor (de.xnano.photoexifeditornine)
  • Photo Editor – Filters Effects (de.hitopgop.sixtyeightgx)
  • Photo Filters & Effects (de.sixtyonecollice.cameraroll)
  • Photo Editor : Blur Image (de.instgang.fiftyggfife)
  • Photo Editor : Cut, Paste (de.fiftyninecamera.rollredactor)
  • Emoji Keyboard: Stickers & GIF (gb.crazykey.sevenboard)
  • Neon Theme Keyboard (com.neonthemekeyboard.app)
  • Neon Theme – Android Keyboard (com.androidneonkeyboard.app)
  • Cashe Cleaner (com.cachecleanereasytool.app)
  • Fancy Charging (com.fancyanimatedbattery.app)
  • FastCleaner: Cashe Cleaner (com.fastcleanercashecleaner.app)
  • Call Skins – Caller Themes (com.rockskinthemes.app)
  • Funny Caller (com.funnycallercustomtheme.app)
  • CallMe Phone Themes (com.callercallwallpaper.app)
  • InCall: Contact Background (com.mycallcustomcallscrean.app)
  • MyCall – Call Personalization (com.mycallcallpersonalization.app)
  • Caller Theme (com.caller.theme.slow)
  • Caller Theme (com.callertheme.firstref)
  • Funny Wallpapers – Live Screen (com.funnywallpapaerslive.app)
  • 4K Wallpapers Auto Changer (de.andromo.ssfiftylivesixcc)
  • NewScrean: 4D Wallpapers (com.newscrean4dwallpapers.app)
  • Stock Wallpapers & Backgrounds (de.stockeighty.onewallpapers)
  • Notes – reminders and lists (com.notesreminderslists.app)

While it does not look good that the Google Play market allowed dozens of harmful Android malware apps to be freely available, they do have rigorous standards to try to keep them out. However, the makers of such apps (and malware) are constantly trying to work around those standards, so it can hardly be surprising that this happens sometimes. Reports indicate that the above apps were downloaded some ten million times by unsuspecting users, which is pretty terrible, no matter how you put it. Remember, when downloading apps, always do a little due diligence and make sure they look legitimate and have consistent, real-seeming reviews to help indicate they are not harmful.