An alarming Android threat called Joker is making an unwelcome comeback, and ignoring recent warnings may prove costly.
The nasty threat is designed to enroll Android users into premium – and very expensive – subscription plans. This is the latest warning from the Zimperium team, who are working with Google to help prevent infected apps from being downloaded to smartphones.
Security researchers say they have seen a “significant increase” in apps that come infested with the Joker malware. Most of the apps associated with this threat take the form of legitimate apps, and offer users fun photo filters, games, wallpapers, and ways to translate text.
Once installed, these apps, which can be found in the Google Play Store, present the Joker malware. This has the ability to install hidden spyware and premium dialers on devices, which can then enroll unsuspecting users into expensive monthly subscription plans they never wanted – and couldn’t afford.
Zimperium explained: “The outcome of a successful mobile threat is cybercriminals’ financial gains, often with the victim’s sights even long after the money runs out.”
Zimperium says it has seen more than 1,000 new Joker samples since its last report on the problem in 2020. The company warns that cyber thieves routinely find new and unique ways to introduce this malware into its official and unofficial app stores.
This means that some of these malware-ridden applications are likely to find their way into the Play Store. The latter is usually considered a safe way for owners of Android tablets and smartphones to browse and install new apps. Google has strong protections – unlike some other online app repositories – however, malware can still infiltrate the store.
Zimperium added: “While these repositories are short-lived, their persistence highlights how portable malware, just like traditional endpoint malware, does not disappear, but continues to modify and advance in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game.”
It is crucial that all Android users do some research before downloading any apps to their devices, as once the Joker is infected, it can cost huge bills without the knowledge of the owner.
And just last month, researchers at Quick Heal Security Labs found 8 Joker-infested apps that the company asked Android users to delete immediately. They also provided some simple tips on how to stay away from any other malware threats, including:
• Download applications only from trusted sources such as the “Google Play” store.
• Learn how to spot fake apps in the Play Store.
• Do not click on strange links received through messages or any other social media platforms.
• Stop the installation from the unknown source option.
• Read the popup messages you get from Android before accepting/allowing any new permissions.