The Google Play Store is the official application store for the Android operating system. And as such, it’s supposed to be trustworthy – the equivalent of the Apple Store for an iPhone/iPad. But cybercriminals are increasingly managing to circumvent its security mechanisms, introducing supposedly safe and malware-laden apps, like the ones we’ll talk about below.
Millions of downloads with bad rating
Researchers from the Dr. Web antivirus team have discovered another batch of seemingly innocent Android apps that are actually designed to introduce malware into smartphones that install them and cause unsuspecting victims. The latest batch includes wallpaper apps, keyboards, photo editors, video editors, and even cache cleaners or system maintenance apps.
In total, they found 30 Apps on the Google Play Store That Managed to Bypass Google’s Strict Security Policies. Applications that have been collectively downloaded over 10 million times, which equates to more than 10 million potentially infected cell phones. The funny thing is that even despite the low rating, some like the Neon Theme Keyboard app which adds a neon colored numeric keypad have millions of downloads despite only 1.8 out of 5 stars and complaints from many users warning not to use it. .
According to Bleeping Computeradware applications discovered by Dr. Web these are modifications of existing families that first appeared on the Google Play Store in May 2022. During installation, apps ask for permission to overlay windows on any app and can be added to the battery saver exclusion list to continue running in the background when the victim closes the app. Also, they hide their app drawer icons or replace them with something like a core system component, like “SIM Toolkit”.
Joker and other acquaintances
The second category of malicious apps found on the Play Store are Joker apps, which are known to incur fraudulent charges on victims’ mobile numbers when subscribing to premium services.
Two of the apps on the list, “Water Reminder” and “Yoga – For Beginner to Advanced”, remain on the Play Store, with 100,000 and 50,000 downloads respectively. Both provide the functionality promised, but also perform malicious actions in the background, interacting with invisible or untargeted elements loaded through WebView and charging users.
Finally, Dr. Web highlights two Facebook takers distributed in image editing tools that apply cartoon filters to normal images. These apps are “YouToon – AI Cartoon Effect” and “Hint – Cartoon Photo Effect”, which have been collectively downloaded over 1.5 million times through the Play Store.
Below is the full list. If you have any, remove them right away and check your bank statements to make sure there aren’t any weird charges for services you’re not aware of:
- Photo editor: beauty filter (gb.artfilter.tenvarnist)
- Photo editor: retouch and crop (de.nineergysh.quickarttwo)
- Photo editor: artistic filters (gb.painnt.moonlightingnine)
- Photo Editor – Design Maker (gb.twentynine.redaktoridea)
- Photo editor and background eraser (from.photoground.twentysixshot)
- Photo and Exif editor (de.xnano.photoexifeditornine)
- Photo Editor – Filter Effects (from.hitopgop.sixtyeightgx)
- Photo filters and effects (from.sixtyonecollice.cameraroll)
- Photo editor: blurry image (from.instgang.fiftyggfife)
- Photo editor: Cut, Paste (de.fiftyninecamera.rollredactor)
- Emoji Keyboard: Stickers and GIFs (gb.crazykey.sevenboard)
- Neon Theme Keyboard (com.neonthemekeyboard.app)
- Neon Theme – Android Keyboard (com.androidneonkeyboard.app)
- Crate cleaner (com.cachecleanereasytool.app)
- Fancy Loading (com.fancyanimatedbattery.app)
- FastCleaner: crate cleaner (com.fastcleanercashecleaner.app)
- Call Skins – Call Themes (com.rockskinthemes.app)
- funny caller (com.funnycallercustomtheme.app)
- CallMe Phone Themes (com.callercallwallpaper.app)
- InCall: contact history (com.mycallcustomcallscrean.app)
- MyCall – Call personalization (com.mycallcallcustomization.app)
- Caller Theme (com.caller.theme.slow)
- Caller theme (com.callertheme.firstref)
- Funny Wallpapers – Live Screen (com.funnywallpapaerslive.app)
- Automatic 4K wallpaper changer (from.andromo.ssfiftylivesixcc)
- NewScrean: 4D Wallpapers (com.newsscreen4dwallpapers.app)
- Wallpapers and Backgrounds (from.stockeighty.onewallpapers)
- Notes – reminders and lists (com.notesreminderslists.app)