Tech security enthusiasts are warning Android smartphone and tablet users about a swarm of dangerous mobile apps that have been downloaded millions of times from the Google Play Store.
Since 2020, more than 190 apps containing a “Harly” strain of malware have been installed – with the virus capable of stealing personal information and even money via expensive subscriptions.
The programming was discovered by antivirus vendor Kaspersky and it is named Harly due to its similarities with another notorious Android virus – Joker. Comic book fans and lovers of the DC Cinematic Universe will be familiar with both of these names, and like the characters depicted, Bugs shares various similarities.
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Read more: The latest scams used by fraudsters to scam people out of their money or personal data
The Express reports that the Harly malware is able to sign up Android users to expensive subscription services without their knowledge – by secretly getting security codes via SMS. Once stolen, of course, this information can be used to sign up Android users for expensive subscriptions without their knowledge.
Harly can also confirm subscriptions via phone calls, ensuring victims are unaware this has happened. If left undetected, it can make people say goodbye to hundreds of pounds every year.
Speaking about how these dangerous apps managed to sneak into the Google Play Store, Kaspersky said: “Since 2020, more than 190 Harly-infected apps have been found on Google Play. A conservative estimate of the number of downloads for these apps is 4.8 million, but the actual figure may be even higher.
“Like Joker Trojans, Harly family Trojans impersonate legitimate applications. So how does it work? Fraudsters download regular apps from Google Play, insert malicious code into them, and then upload them to Google Play under a different name. Apps can still have the features listed in the description, so users may not even suspect a threat.”
Kaspersky has also highlighted a number of affected Play Store apps that Android users should be aware of – some of which have already been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. And while all the apps below have since been removed from the market, users are advised to remove them from their devices once they have been installed.
pony camera – Over 500,000 downloads
Live wallpaper and theme launcher – Over 100,000 downloads
Action launcher and wallpapers – Over 100,000 downloads
call of color – Over 100,000 downloads
good jug – Over 100,000 downloads
Monday Widgets – Over 100,000 downloads
Funcalls Voice Changer – Over 100,000 downloads
Eva Launcher – Over 100,000 downloads
Newlook Launcher – Over 100,000 downloads
pixel screen wallpaper – Over 100,000 downloads
In terms of future security against dangerous apps sneaking through the Google Play Store filter, users are advised to always pay close attention to app reviews. You might come across articles from other users who have already been cheated and warn others about it.
It is also best to approach app developers and use only the most reliable and reputable ones that are known and well-known. Antivirus software installed directly on your device can also help you avoid threats and malware, but make sure you download it from an official app and a trusted provider.
Sometimes crooks have even invented fake antivirus apps – which will do the opposite of your device’s security.