KEY POINTS

  • Security researchers found 17 malicious apps targeting Android users
  • Google has already removed these apps from the Play Store
  • Android users who have downloaded them should uninstall them for their own safety

Security researchers are advising Android device users who have installed certain apps from the Play Store to uninstall them because they are infected with a serious form of malware known as “Joker” or “Bread,” reports say.

Cloud security company Zscaler's ThreatLabZ research team recently identified 17 malicious apps that were uploaded to the Google Play Store and have been downloaded about 120,000 times. These apps were infected with the Joker or Bread malware, which has been infecting apps in the Play Store for years now.

In a blog post earlier this year, Google described the Joker or Bread malware as a “large-scale billing fraud family” that has “used just about every cloaking and obfuscation technique under the sun in an attempt to go undetected.” It has been watching out for this “persistent attacker” since early 2017, and the current report talks about the malware's latest attack on Android users.

The Joker malware is not easily spotted as it disguises itself as a legitimate app, complete with all its functions. This app will function normally at the start. After a delay ranging from hours to days, however, it will then download or “drop” components that contain the Joker or Bread malware into the Android device, letting the malware's authors do whatever the malware allows them to do.

According to Zscaler's researchers, Joker is designed to “steal SMS messages, contact lists, and device information along with silently signing up the victim for premium wireless application protocol (WAP) services.” As such, Android users are advised to be very careful to keep their devices free from it.

Google has successfully removed the 17 malicious apps infected with the Joker malware. Users who have downloaded and still have these apps on their devices, however, are advised to uninstall them for their own safety.

Here's the list of infected apps, as per Zscaler:

  • All Good PDF Scanner
  • Mint Leaf Message-Your Private Message
  • Unique Keyboard - Fancy Fonts & Free Emoticons
  • Tangram App Lock
  • Direct Messenger
  • Private SMS
  • One Sentence Translator - Multifunctional Translator
  • Style Photo Collage
  • Meticulous Scanner
  • Desire Translate
  • Talent Photo Editor - Blur focus
  • Care Message
  • Part Message
  • Paper Doc Scanner
  • Blue Scanner
  • Hummingbird PDF Converter - Photo to PDF
  • All Good PDF Scanner

Android malware Some malware families are designed to attack Android devices. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images