Skip to main content

These Android apps can run up your phone bill — delete them now

Tinted microscope image of a coronavirus displayed on an Android phone.
(Image credit: photosince/Shutterstock)

The annoyingly persistent Joker scamware was found in six Android apps earlier this week. 

All six have now been nixed from the Google Play store, but you might want to check your phone to see if you've installed any. Otherwise, the apps may try to jack up your phone bill with fraudulent premium-SMS charges.

French-American security firm Pradeo, which discovered the problem, has a list of the offending apps, plus their unique package names since many apps may have identical or similar names.

The dirty half-dozen are:

  • Convenient Scanner 2 (com.convenient.scanner.tb) -- more than 100,000 installations
  • Emoji Wallpaper (tw.hdwallpaperthemes.emoji.wallpaper) -- more than 10,000 installations
  • Fingertip GameBox (com.theone.finger.games) -- more than 1,000 installations
  • Push Message-Texting&SMS (sms.pushmessage.messaging) -- more than 10,000 installations
  • Safety AppLock (applock.safety.protect.apps) -- more than 10,000 installations
  • Separate Doc Scanner (sk.pdf.separatedoc.scanner) -- more than 50,000 installations

The Joker malware first popped up about a year ago infecting two dozen camera, wallpaper, messaging and scanning apps. Another 11 infected apps were found this past July. 

But no matter how often Google purges these apps from Google Play, more seem to find their way in, often by sneakily modifying their source code after users install them.

Joker not only secretly signs you up for premium-SMS services, but also steals your contact lists and text-message history, possibly so it can spread among your friends. It's not the worst malware in the world, but it does pose a substantial financial and privacy risk.

Google reserves the right to disable or even remove Android apps from users' phones if the apps are found to be harmful, but it's not clear whether Google has done so in this case. Users may see notifications that certain apps on their phones should be manually deleted.

In any case, there's a simple solution to avoid infection, abuse and fraudulent premium-SMS charges: Install and run one of the best Android antivirus apps. Some of them will cost you nothing but add to your peace of mind.