One-click-fraud apps move to smartphones

by CXOtoday News Desk    Apr 03, 2013

malware android

In the past several months, a number of reports have revealed that Android has become the key target for malware attack. Currently, users should be careful of Android apps that demand money in exchange for adult videos. According to a recent Symantec blog post the new stream of malware is the One-click-fraud apps that lure porn seekers and trick them into paying a sizeable amount of money to avoid embarrassment are popping up on Google Play in large numbers.

In its official blog post today, security researcher Joji Hamada states that the Android apps started appearing in Google’s app store, especially in Japan since late January this year. Since then, Symantec has counted the number to over 200, published by more than 50 developers. In the last two months, the apps have been downloaded at least 5,000 times.

According to Hamada, some of these apps were also removed from Google Play at one point for unconfirmed reasons. “However, things started going out of control with more and more developers fiercely publishing apps in bulk on a daily basis.”

Hamada explains for many years, One-click-fraud were common in PCs. With increased smartphone usage, the number of these type of scams are emerging on smartphone devices. People typically come across these scam sites by searching for things that they are interested in or by clicking on links contained in spam messages. A PC-based one-click scam on a desktop worked this way -  when a user clicks on a link and inadvertently downloads malware onto a computer, forcing the user to sign up for a paid service to stop pop ups. In the case of smartphones, the apps send users to porn sites that require a service fee. This way the fake apps gain access to your phone and direct you to the site. As Hamada notes, “This is because the app is simply used as a vehicle to lure users to the scam by opening fraudulent porn sites. The app itself has no other functionality. This may fool users into feeling safe about the app and catch them off guard when launching the app.”

Symantec said as far as victims go, we are not aware of how many of these users actually paid money to the scammers; the “service” costs about 99,000 yen (approximately US$1,000). Although Symantec did not determine how many users paid for the service, it speculated that the number is huge.

Symantec mentions that porn seekers are not the only targets. Symantec said there are also a couple of developers who have been publishing fake dating service apps that act in the same manner. Going forward, enterprises should also be careful about similar attacks.

To avoid becoming a victim of such malware Android applications, the company recommends users only use regulated Android marketplaces for downloading and installing Android apps, review other users’ comments on the marketplace to assist in determining if an app is safe and most importantly utilize a mobile security solution on devices to ensure any downloaded apps are not malicious.