Google recently disabled 17 Android apps infected with Joker malware, but only users can uninstall them.
One of the most persistent pieces of malware targeting Android devices has reared its head again, this time appearing in 17 apps on the Google Play Store.
As security company Zscaler explains, the apps in question were infected with the Joker malware. It steals SMS messages, contact lists, and device information, but the most serious threat it poses to users is automatic sign-ups to premium wireless application protocol (WAP) services. With WAP billing, users get a shock next time they receive their mobile phone bill as the service costs are charged directly to it.
The Joker malware circumvents the Google Play app vetting process through a combination of code tweaks, execution method variation, and changes to how it downloads the payload allowing it to function, steal information, and trigger the WAP service sign-ups. Google has removed the 17 infected apps from the Play Store and disabled them on devices where they are installed, thought to be in the region of 120,000 devices. The list of apps includes:
- All Good PDF Scanner
- Mint Leaf Message-Your Private Message
- Unique Keyboard – Fancy Fonts & Free Emoticons
- Tangram App Lock
- Direct Messenger
- Private SMS
- One Sentence Translator – Multifunctional Translator
- Style Photo Collage
- Meticulous Scanner
- Desire Translate
- Talent Photo Editor – Blur focus
- Care Message
- Part Message
- Paper Doc Scanner
- Blue Scanner
- Hummingbird PDF Converter – Photo to PDF
- All Good PDF Scanner
As ZDNet reports, the one thing Google can’t do, however, is remove the (now disabled) apps from a device. That task is left up to the user. If you have any of these apps installed, simply open Settings on your device, open Apps, find the app in the list, select it, and tap uninstall. You’ll know the uninstallation is complete when Android reloads the list of apps. Rinse and repeat the process if you have more than one of the apps listed above installed.
As the Joker malware is so difficult to thwart, it seems unlikely this is the last time we’ll hear about infected apps being removed from the Play store. If you’re unsure about installing a new app, do some checking first. A quick search for the app name could reveal it’s one to avoid or perfectly safe to install and use.