Despite various security measures such as Google Play Protect, it appears that Android’s malware issue hasn’t really been fixed yet. We recently covered the news that 25 apps from Google Play contained malware that stole your Facebook login credentials—and now, a new report has found a new variant of the “Joker” spyware loitering in apps found on Google Play.
According to a report from security researchers over at Check Point, the spyware has been found in “seemingly legitimate” apps for Android devices. But what’s even more worrying is that the new Joker malware has the capabilities to download more malware onto your smartphone, while the spyware also subscribes to paid, premium services (without your knowledge).
Who/what is the Joker?
The Joker malware (not the supervillian) has reportedly caused over 17,000 offending apps to be removed from Google’s Play Store to date. Despite its infamy, the malware has repeatedly been found within apps listed due to small alterations to its code by attackers to avoid detection. Researchers also found that attackers hid a “dynamically loaded dex file” to dupe security safeguards.
This, according to the researchers, is “one of the most prominent types of malware” for Android users, but the new variant uses a technique borrowed from conventional PC threats to avoid detection. Regardless, for regular users of smartphones, it’s certainly worrying to know that an online store that is as reputable as the Google Play Store can be compromised with offensive apps such as these—and semi-regularly, too.
What should you do to stay safe?
The report doesn’t specifically list down the apps that are infected, although the researchers published a list of 11 offending packages that were discovered:
Based on the package names, you can tell that the infected apps span across various types of apps—most of which probably appear to be totally harmless. There are photo editing apps, relaxation apps, along with software that helps you recover lost/deleted files and wallpaper apps.
You should also be wary of any subscriptions to premium services that you have not consented to via your credit card (or other payment channels). While it may be a little difficult to actually get your money back, this will prevent you from being continually (and fraudulently) charged.
Unfortunately, the vast variety of Android apps on the Google Play Store isn’t free from malware issues, despite security safeguards being put in place by the search engine giants. Regardless, you should always be careful when you download apps from unknown developers. If you must, remember to go through the reviews section of individual apps before downloading, and try to stick to reputable app publishers/developers.
To read the full Check Point report, click here.