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The Google Play Store is having a tough time at the moment with malware-filled apps and sketchy developer practices. Google has again removed 24 more malware-heavy apps from the Google Play Store with almost 500,000 downloads as it tackles the problem on its online app marketplace.

We’ve seen numerous developers and applications already ripped from the Play Store after questionable ad practices and sketchy software runs without owner knowledge after being downloaded. This latest crop of apps was found by cybersecurity firm CSIS Security Group (via TNW).

The research shows that the “Joker” malware within these infected apps was able to secretly sign people up to premium subscription services, steal SMS messages, contacts, and even nab key device information such as the serial and IMEI numbers.

This trojan was also able to silently click on ads while simultaneously accessing any verification codes sent via SMS — which was used to sign up for these premium subscriptions.

CSIS found 24 Android apps that were littered with the malware. The full list can be found below:

  • Advocate Wallpaper
  • Age Face
  • Altar Message
  • Antivirus Security — Security Scan
  • Beach Camera
  • Board picture editing
  • Certain Wallpaper
  • Climate SMS
  • Collate Face Scanner
  • Cute Camera
  • Dazzle Wallpaper
  • Declare Message
  • Display Camera
  • Great VPN
  • Humour Camera
  • Ignite Clean
  • Leaf Face Scanner
  • Mini Camera
  • Print Plant scan
  • Rapid Face Scanner
  • Reward Clean
  • Ruddy SMS
  • Soby Camera
  • Spark Wallpaper

The report also states that the malware-infected apps only attacks those in selected countries. You would have to be using an active SIM from one of 37 nations. The full list of 37 targeted countries is: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Argentina, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States.

Google has steadily been removing apps and malware that break their developer terms and conditions with increasing consistency over the past 12 months. CSIS notes that all apps have been removed from the Google Play Store without any notice from the security firm conducting the research.

Our advice would be to apply scrutiny to any applications on the Google Play Store that could be claiming to offer something that seems too good to be true. Alternatively, try to stick to reputable developers or apps that are suggested by Google on the main storefront to avoid malware.

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