Hackers are stealing hundreds of millions of pounds from Android users by hiding viruses in phone apps, a new report has found.
Users in more than 70 countries have been targeted by the apps, which scams them out of dozens of pounds per month.
There are an estimated ten million victims globally, and the virus has so far been able to avoid typical antivirus programs. More than 200 malicious apps were initially distributed through Google Play and third-party app store downloads, hiding in tools, dating apps, and puzzle games.
While Google have removed the apps from their store, the downloads are still available from third parties.
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Once a malicious app has been installed, the virus—known as 'Grifthorse'—takes your GPS language and sends targeted pop-up ads in your language saying you've won a prize and must claim it immediately.
These pop-ups appear at least five times an hour until you finally accept the offer. Upon doing so, you're forwarded onto a webpage where you must enter your phone number for 'verification'.
In reality, your phone number is passed onto a premium SMS service that starts charging your phone bill over €30 (£25) per month. Because you don't need to enter your card details, you could be unlikely to notice the theft for a number of months.
"Overall, GriftHorse Android Trojan takes advantage of small screens, local trust and misinformation to trick users into downloading and installing these Android Trojans, as well as frustration or curiosity when accepting the fake free prize spammed into their notification screens," said spokespeople for Zimperium zLabs, the cybersecurity firm that discovered the virus.
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The company estimates that the virus has been taking money from people since around November 2020, meaning that its earliest victims would have lost more than €200 by now.
Malicious apps include:
- Handy Translator Pro
- Heart Rate and Pulse Tracker
- Racers Car Driver
- Slime Simulator
- Keyboard Themes
- Forza H Mobile 4 Ultimate Edition
You can view the full list of apps at the bottom of this page.
An estimated £34.5 million has been stolen by scammers over the course of the pandemic, so just remember: if it sounds too good to be true, and it comes from someone that you don't know, it probably is.
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