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Microsoft warns Android device users against toll fraud

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Microsoft’s security team details the scheme, called toll fraud malware (toll fraud malware) – a branch of billing fraud – in a blog post (New window). According to these specialists, it is of one of the most common types of Android malware.

To achieve their ends, hackers create mobile applications infected with viruses, sometimes even offered on the Google Play Store. Often, these are wallpaper software, photography tools, or even fake antivirus software, according to Microsoft.

Once the application has been downloaded to an Android device, the malware attempts to access the cellular network by all means (therefore excluding wi-fi), and begins to subscribe to paid subscriptions. The software even provides for disabling messages sent to the user for one-time passwords – often used when signing up for a subscription for the first time to validate their identity.

In this way, the charges appear directly on the telephone bill, without the owner of the device realizing it. This scheme can lead to huge phone bills for victims, according to Microsoft.

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How to spot and avoid them

The security research team also details in its blog post how to spot these apps. For example, once downloaded, the malware may request permission to access notifications or text messages. However, the advertised function of this software is often not related to these tools – allowing access to text messages for wallpapers is abusive.

Additionally, toll fraud apps often display similar-looking interfaces and icons and have a high number of negative reviews. Developer profiles are full of grammatical errors.

Owners of Android smart phones or tablets can also monitor certain signs of infection: the device is idling or overheating, the battery is draining quickly, connectivity problems are occurring.

These schemes can slip under Google’s radar with a few tactics, such as regularly updating mobile apps – the web giant has been known to chase apps that have been dormant for too long on the Google Play Store.

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Microsoft also urges Android users to avoid sideloading (by third parties) software, especially if they are not also available on the official application store.

According to the findings of the Microsoft security team, the use of malware related to toll fraud surpasses that of spyware for the first quarter of 2022, with 34.8% of potentially dangerous applications installed through the Google Play Store.

According to a Google transparency report (New window)the people who have downloaded these apps the most are from India, Mexico, Turkey, Russia and Indonesia.

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