Fleeceware apps on Google Play deceive millions of users: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on November 12, 2020 Published on November 12, 2020

Cybercriminals have deceived millions of users through fraudulent ‘fleeceware’ apps on Google Play, according to a report by cybersecurity firm Avast.

Multiple malicious mobile applications on Google Play Store dubbed as ‘fleeceware’ apps are targeting gamers. The primary target so far has been players of the popular video game Minecraft.

Fleeeceware, as Avast explains, is a new type of cybercriminal activity where the apps offer an attractive service to users usually for a short free trial period of three days following which, they begin to charge hundreds of dollars a month. In this case, the apps appear to offer new skins, colorful wallpapers, or modifications for the game. However, after installation, they tend to charge exorbitant amounts for these services.

“Fraudsters expect the user to forget about the installed application and its short trial, or fail to notice the real subscription cost,” explained Avast

“Scams of this nature take advantage of those who don’t always read the fine print details of every app they download,” said Ondrej David, malware analysis team lead at Avast.

According to David, children are especially vulnerable to falling for such scams.

“In this case, young children are particularly at risk because they may think they are innocently downloading a Minecraft accessory, but not understand or may not pay attention to the details of the service to which they are subscribing,” said David.

“We urge our customers to remain vigilant when downloading any app from unknown developers and to always carefully research user reviews and billing agreements before subscribing,” David added.

Avast has reported seven of these apps to Google. They included Skins, Mods, Maps for Minecraft PE, Skins for Roblox, Live Wallpapers HD & 3D Background, MasterCraft for Minecraft, Master for Minecraft, Boys and Girls Skins and Maps Skins and Mods for Minecraft. A majority of apps have over 1 million downloads each. Users have been advised to uninstall these apps to prevent scams.

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Published on November 12, 2020
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