Android phone owners are being warned over 22 dodgy apps that drain your battery life – and could land you with a big phone bill.
The “clickfraud” apps pretend to be normal apps on the Google Play Store, but secretly perform criminal actions out of sight.
Experts at security firm Sophos found 22 such apps, which had been collectively downloaded more than 22 million times.
This includes one illicit flashlight app that had racked up one million downloads – before being pulled from Google’s Play Store.
The apps create invisible ads and trick advertisers into thinking you’ve clicked the ad, to make money. Sometimes the ads will even pretend you’re clicking from an Apple device, in the hopes of making more money.
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The ads never actually appear for the user – which means they’re not annoyed by them. Instead, the ads appear in a hidden browser window.
The malware then simulates a user interacting with the ad, tricking it into thinking the interaction was legitimate. This means the people running the dodgy apps make more money.
It’s also bad news for users, as researchers explain: “From the user’s perspective, these apps drain their phone’s battery and may cause data overages as the apps are constantly running and communicating with servers in the background.”
But for normal users without technical knowledge, it would be very hard to spot something was amiss.
Warning signs would be increased data usage and fast-draining battery life – but pinning those to the dodgy apps would be hard.
This creates another big problem: user reviews.
Many of the apps had barely any negative comments, because users don’t know anything is amiss. This means more people are likely to download the apps in future.
“The only effects a user might notice is that the apps would use a significantly greater amount of data, at all times, and consume the phone’s battery power at a more rapid rate that the phone would otherwise require,” researchers explained.
“Because consumers would not be able to correlate these effects to the apps themselves, their Play Market reviews for these apps showed few negative comments.”
Google removed the dodgy apps from the Play Store on the week of November 25.
But the apps can still operate if you’ve already got them installed, so it’s recommended to delete them now.
THE APPS YOU SHOULD UNINSTALL
Sparkle FlashLight – com.sparkle.flashlight
Snake Attack – com.mobilebt.snakefight
Math Solver – com.mobilebt.mathsolver
ShapeSorter – com.mobilebt.shapesorter
Tak A Trip – com.takatrip.android
Magnifeye – com.magnifeye.android
Join Up – com.pesrepi.joinup
Zombie Killer – com.pesrepi.zombiekiller
Space Rocket – com.pesrepi.spacerocket
Neon Pong – com.pesrepi.neonpong
Just Flashlight – app.mobile.justflashlight
Table Soccer – com.mobile.tablesoccer
Cliff Diver – com.mobile.cliffdiver
Box Stack – com.mobile.boxstack
Jelly Slice – net.kanmobi.jellyslice
AK Blackjack – com.maragona.akblackjack
Color Tiles – com.maragona.colortiles
Animal Match – com.beacon.animalmatch
Roulette Mania – com.beacon.roulettemania
HexaFall – com.atry.hexafall
HexaBlocks – com.atry.hexablocks
PairZap – com.atry.pairzap
This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced with permission