Google confirms new Android threat: millions of users affected

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Android has 2.5 billion users across the world and they must all be on high alert after Google confirmed that millions of users have been affected by new dangerous scams coming straight from the Play Store.

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The news follows an investigation by Avast. The security specialist found 151 apps approved by the Google Play store masquerading as games, custom keyboards, photo editors, QR code scanners, and more. And these apps have been downloaded over 10 million times by Android users in over 80 countries, including the United States.

Avast warns that these fraudulent payments can “go unnoticed for weeks or months” and even if affected users uninstall these apps, the charges will continue. Avast says the only way to stop them is to contact your carrier and request that all premium SMS messages be turned off.

In response, Google confirmed Avast’s findings and removed the 151 malicious apps from the Play Store. This prevents new users from getting ripped off, but those who have already downloaded the apps will continue to have issues until they are both uninstalled and your carrier is contacted. Avast has a comprehensive list of all scam apps, which it would be wise to check out.

Google isn’t alone in approving harmful apps on its official store. Apple has made headlines several times this year (1,2,3,4,5) for approving “factories” of fraudulent apps in the App Store and even accidentally promoting them. Court documents earlier this year also revealed that Eric Friedman, head of algorithms and fraud engineering risk at Apple, described App Store security as “bringing a plastic butter knife to a shootout.” And “more like the pretty lady who greets you … at the airport in Hawaii than the drug sniffer dog.”

So beware: just because an app is integrated with the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store doesn’t mean it’s automatically secure. Check the reviews carefully and stay alert.

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