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Security & privacy

Scam warning: 11 apps you need to delete right now

There is a sweeping epidemic of malware making the rounds right now, and if you’re not careful, you could end up with a load of malicious apps, fraudulent charges and popups on your device.

The malware in question is an old favorite of scammers: the Joker malware. Once installed, this malware will sign you up for subscription services you neither want nor need and will bill your bank account in the background — all without your permission. Tap or click here to see why this malware is so annoying.

Joker first began circulating in 2017, but now, it’s back with a vengeance. This “fleeceware” was just detected in 11 different apps and if you have them on your phone, you need to delete them immediately. We have the complete list, as well as what you can do to spot these kinds of programs in the future.

Joker’s wild

According to Check Point Security, the infamous Joker malware has returned to the Google Play Store by means of mass deception. This new edition of Joker (also known as Bread) was disguised in the form of 11 ordinary apps that hid their malicious payload until Google approved them for distribution.

Once downloaded to a phone, the malware immediately goes to work signing you up for paid subscription services that run in the background without you knowing. These charges are billed to your account and can add up significantly over time.

And to make matters worse, the actual malicious code is nearly invisible to your phone. It’s smartly hidden by its developers in a non-accessible part of the application.

Check Point, in its bulletin, had scathing words for Google and the Play Store, saying that its “protections are not enough.”

In an email to Ars Technica, Check Point manager of mobile research Aviran Hazum said his company was “able to detect numerous cases of Joker uploads on a weekly basis to Google Play, all of which were downloaded by unsuspecting users.”

He also added that “The Joker malware is tricky to detect, despite Google’s investment in adding Play Store protections. Although Google removed the malicious apps from the Play Store, we can fully expect Joker to adapt again.”

Harsh words, but fair considering how frequently malicious apps are found on Google’s platform. Tap or click here to see what was found in the last batch of malicious apps.

What apps do I need to delete from my phone?

Google has since removed the apps from the Google Play Store, but it’s still worth checking to see if they’re floating around on your device.

Here are the system names for each of the malicious apps:

  • com.hmvoice.friendsms
  • com.relax.relaxation.androidsms
  • com.cheery.message.sendsms (two different instances)
  • com.peason.lovinglovemessage
  • com.file.recovefiles
  • com.LPlocker.lockapps
  • com.remindme.alram

If you installed any of these apps on your device, check your bank and billing statements immediately for any sign of fraudulent charges. We would also recommend contacting your bank to see if the charges can possibly be reversed.

Tap or click here to discover the safest ways to bank online.

In addition, check the reviews of each app carefully before you download it. A small number of perfect 5 star reviews and nothing else is a big red flag that the reviewers aren’t who they say they are, and that the app isn’t what it claims to be.

At this point in time, the easiest way to stay safe is simply to avoid downloading new apps from Google Play as much as possible. If you must install an app, do so only if you know the software is vetted and provides a necessary benefit to your phone. If the developer is small and unknown, you might want to hold off. It’s not worth the risk.

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