KEY POINTS

  • Google Play removed eight suspicious apps
  • Consumers should immediately remove these apps on their Android devices
  • Joker virus is dangerous because it can empty bank accounts without the owners' knowledge

The infamous Joker virus, which was first discovered in various apps on Google Play in 2017, has returned and users may not know their devices have been infected until their bank accounts are emptied.

Authorities in Belgium warned the public last Friday about the return of the notorious Joker virus. On its official website, the Belgian Police said, "This malicious program has been detected in eight Play Store applications that Google has suppressed." They also advised consumers to be cautious, adding, "You risk a big surprise at the end of the month in your bank account or on your credit card."

The Joker virus is from the family of malware known as Bread, which hacks mobile devices running on Android. It targets bills and authorizes operations without the user's knowledge. Cybersecurity researchers from Quick Heal Security Lab revealed that the Joker virus can get into text messages, contacts and other information available on the infected device.

Android malware Kryptowire discovered 146 vulnerabilities caused by pre-installed apps on Android devices. Photo: Blogtrepreneur/Flickr

This malicious program is extremely dangerous because it can let owners of the infected device subscribe to paid services, usually the most expensive or Premium services, without their consent. In most cases, the victims become aware of the theft only when they review their account statements in detail.

Google Play Store has already removed eight suspicious apps. These are Auxiliary Message, Element Scanner, Fast Magic SMS, Free CamScanner, Go Messages, Super Message, Super SMS and Travel Wallpapers.

However, cybersecurity company Zscaler believes 16 apps in the Google marketplace contain malicious code.

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

Android users should delete these apps from their devices as soon as possible. While Google has already removed some of the apps, it does not mean that they will be automatically deleted from Android devices. Installing anti-malware apps on mobile devices could also help users avoid these malicious apps and codes.

Most importantly, consumers should not download any apps on Google Play Store or from any links, especially if they are not verified by the search engine giant.