Ever since Google launched its Google Play for Android, the app platform has been riddled with different forms of Potentially-Unwanted-Programs (PUP) and Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA), disguising as legitimate apps. Many of these apps come with a vindictive agenda to lure innocent users in different ways.
A recent report has highlighted 25 of them which are still being used by many around the world. According to Google Play, at least 600 million people across the globe have downloaded these apps, and many of them are still using them. A few apps from the list have even recorded more than 100 million downloads and are competing with many of the most popular apps in the Google Play store.
According to the report, in many instances, the download numbers have been manipulated to fool users. But a few of them, including an accessible keyboard app, have genuinely become favourites. The app, with a million downloads, is allegedly sending all texts a user types to China.
The list of such apps is largely categorized under the most popular app categories, including entertainment, instant messengers, video editors and beauty apps. These notorious apps, categorized as fleeceware, are different in nature from other malware-riddled apps.
What is a fleeceware
Unlike modern malware, fleeceware is not programmed or behave like typical malware, and many of the fleeceware also comply with the App Store regulations. These apps usually come with basic services like beautifying selfies or adding emojis to the text. Still, they often come with a hidden agenda of charging a premium without offering value.
These apps usually come with a premium subscription and compel the user to subscribe at the time of installation. After a period, the fleeceware charges a hefty amount even after uninstallation. For instance, an app offering something very basic could cost you a massive $200 or even more with a weekly or monthly subscription. The agenda behind such an app is to rip off users in a legitimate way.
Fleeceware apps are usually slotted as PUPs or PUAs by threat researchers. Users are advised to uninstall from the devices before becoming victims.
How fleeceware confuses its victims
Even though fleeceware looks innocent and clean in the App Store listing, they have one thing in common. Such apps usually have a download count of one, five or hundred million installs with a large number of false reviews and five-star ratings. These app publishers generally spend a hefty amount for boosting their Play Store ranking and thus impress users to download them. Since app stores rank the available apps according to the ratings and reviews they have received, such apps top the list when a user searches for a typical app.
Things you should follow
Avoid downloading apps which come with a free trial for a shorter period. If you find a useful app with a premium subscription, carefully read the subscription charges mentioned in the terms and conditions. After using any such app for a few days, if you find it not worth it, never forget to unsubscribe before uninstalling it from your device.
Here is a list of fleeceware apps which you should immediately discard from your Android device:
|Install Count||Subscription (weekly, US)||Subscription (monthly, US)||Subscription (annual, US)|
|Face X Play||100,000+||$25.99||$83.99|
|GO Keyboard Lite||100,000,000+||$9.99||$59.99|
|GO SMS Pro||100,000,000+||$9.99||$59.99|
|S Photo Editor||100,000,000+||$9.99||$59.98|
|Photo Recovery & Video Recovery||100,000+||$199.99|