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December 13th, 2011

Android malware in the open marketplace

Just a couple weeks ago, Chris DiBona, Open Source Programs Manager for Google, claimed that no real malware exists and that “Virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you BS protection software for Android, RIM, and, iOS”. Well, let’s see about that.

Just a few hours ago, another group of malicious applications were removed from the official Android Market after we’ve alerted the Google’s security team to their presence. In addition to the official Android Market, these apps have also been available in around five “unofficial” markets. These are malicious apps that send premium SMS messages to  numbers which users are charged a lot for.  What’s more frightening is that this seems very similar to a case discovered just a few days ago. This one was was pointed out by Lookout mobile security and, as you can see in their blogpost, they were also talking about malicious apps that sent SMS messages to premium numbers. Clearly both groups of applications were created by the same person although published under different name.

Apps published by the developer Miriada Production may look like well known Android games (Angry birds, Need for speed, World of Goo and others) and users could be easily confused. For example, if someone tried to look for “Cut the rope free”,  this malicious application was in the fourth place in the search results. Of course, there are many signals that an app like this is a fraud but less experienced users may not be able to see this as clearly as we do. First of all, the size is only 56 KB  for all games from this publisher. Secondly, the permissions are really strange, since the game needs to be able to send a SMS. And there are many others…

When a user installs this application, it starts to download a package from a remote server. This package actually does contain a real game. But, while doing this, the app is sending a SMS to a premium rate number. One interesting facet is that there is a different number for many countries in Europe, so it does not target Russian only. For example, within the Czech Republic, the SMS is sent to number 9090199 which charges about €4. In other countries, the amount charged is usually a bit less.

The app distinguishes between these countries based on their ISO and nearly 20 individual countries are affected – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, France, United Kingdom, Georgia, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Poland, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uganda. The developer of these fraudulent apps tries to justify what he does by including a Rules section where he explains that the app is actually charging you money. But let’s be honest, who reads these things? Also nothing like this is mentioned on the app download page on the Android Market.

Avast detects this kind of malware as Android:RuFraud and users of avast! Free mobile security are already protected.

  • Tech

    Thanks for protecting us.
    I use Lookout in my Blackberry and I’m glad they’re working hard also.
    I wish I could see a version of avast Mobile Security for Blackberry.

  • marty3

    i am a victim of such application from the android market, i don’t know which game or app it was tho.. but one night all of a sudden i started to receive sms messages about really disgusting filthy stuff made me sick. and they kept on coming every 10 minutes, i had to call t-mobile and they were able to block the messages.

    t-mobile also gave me the details of the company who was sending the messages charging me £1.50 each message i got, so i contacted them by email several times but the only response i got was a email reply with a number to call, which was also a premium rate phone number..

    i did not know what app or game caused it, so i completely formatted my Samsung galaxy s2, i was lucky how i stoped it when i did. i think it was £20.50 total charges from all the sms they sent me, but it would of carried on and on if i never blocked it by calling t mobile.

    im currently using avg on my phone, i dont think there is a mobile avast is there? avast ive used on my computers for years and never had a virus yet. i will check the market now for a avast for droid

  • daffy_d

    thanks a lot for protecting my phone and all my pc of me and my family and all my friends … you are the nr.1 choice of the malware & virusdetection software.

  • Peter Kováč

    Hi marty3,

    you can download Avast! Mobile Security from the official android market:

  • Hanziness

    Yeah, thank you for protecting us, Avast! :)
    Although this kind of malware doesn’t affect me as I’m using a Nokia 6300, I find this both interesting and horrible..

    Keep up the good work ;)

  • yanita

    tablets are highly mobile and become part of everyday life, thanks to avast is still protecting from the threats that endanger

  • Olgis

    Please put your antivirus to Russian :-) And so many of tasks Avast! under programs that are running scared :-)

  • Artem Russakovskii