Uninstall These Apps That Google has Removed from the Play Store

Posted by Norma Stratton on

Uninstall These Apps That Google has Removed from the Play Store

Malware is in the news again with both the arrival of BlackRock, which is known to affect 337 apps, and with Google removing 11 infected apps from the Play Store. Each of these apps were found to be infected with the Joker malware, a Trojan that activates when the user interacts with it, often in the form of installing an app. The virus slips past the device’s security to steal information, or even cripple the device.

Joker was first discovered in 2017 and is one of the most widespread types of Android malware, responsible for billing fraud and capable of stealing device information, SMS messages, and contact lists. Several malware-infected Android apps have repeatedly found ways to make use of gaps in Play Store security, adapting and changing in response to Play Store policies and improved Google Play Protect defences.

Those groups behind large-scale malware operations have used a number of methods such as fake reviews that trick users to download apps, encryption to hide strings from analysis engines, and a technique referred to as versioning, which involves uploading a clean version of the app onto the Play Store. Once this initial version builds trust among users, app updates are used to quietly add malicious code undetected.

By January of 2020, Google had already removed more than 1700 apps submitted to the Play Store over the course of three years due to infection with the malware. As expected, Joker adapted yet again, resulting in the new variant behind the 11 apps recently removed. This new update includes the ability to download even more threats, subscribing the user to premium app services to which they never consented. It does this by using two main components: the Notification Listener and a dynamic dex file loaded from a C&C server to perform the registration.

The list of infected apps that were removed follows:

  • imagecompress.android
  • relax.relaxation.androidsms
  • cheery.message.sendsms (two different instances)
  • peason.lovinglovemessage
  • contact.withme.texts
  • hmvoice.friendsms
  • file.recovefiles
  • LPlocker.lockapps
  • remindme.alram
  • training.memorygame

Despite the apps having been removed from the Play Store, there are users who have already downloaded them. Anyone who has done so will need to remove them manually. Once that is done, it is advisable to check all transactions on the Google Store to see whether any new services have been subscribed to via credit card. Users should also review the permissions for every app that is installed on their device.

According to a detailed report, the malware is quite difficult to spot, suggesting a strong possibility that is will resurface yet again on the Play Store. This latest version serves as a reminder that Android malware is constantly evolving and must be guarded against continually.


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