Fleecewares are apps that abuse the testing period on Android phones and end up charging users undue charges. Identified by the cybersecurity company Sophos in 2019, some of them are still available for download on the Google Play Store and today total at least 600 million installations.
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Sophos has named the new class of threats as fleeceware because the apps in question are not malware – at first, they do not behave like viruses, and do not harm or intercept data. The term fleece, in English, refers to the extortion practiced by the coup in question. The practice explores the rules of the Google store and ends up surprising users with charges that can reach hundreds of dollars for simple services and, in many cases, were not even used by the user.
Apps use a trial period to induce the user to pay for expensive subscriptions – Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
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Developers from the various fleecewares found in the Play Store offer a simple application that, in a superficial analysis, behaves like any other: the app comes with a trial period that frees up functions for the user to get to know the service. After the evaluation, the functions are blocked and, to have access to the complete program, you must pay a subscription.
The blow occurs in this transition: if the user has not canceled the registration made at the first login or installation of fleeceware, you will end up receiving a full charge, as if you had signed up for the full service.
It is important to note that apps of this type have identified a gap in the way the Google Play Store works: instead of using an eventual uninstallation of the app as a sign that the user does not want to continue subscribing to the service, the applications completely ignore the removal and perform undue charges.
The practice was identified by Sophos experts in September 2019: since then, the first developer caught in the practice took their apps off the air. On the other hand, a new wave of fleecewares is still available on the Android store.
Fortunemirror: app promises daily horoscope, but charges about R $ 290 per week – Photo: Reproduction / Filipe Garrett
One of the fleecewares next generation is Fortunemirror, horoscope app that promises daily information about the user’s chart. The application offers a three-day free trial period – if the user does not cancel the registration, the service charges a subscription that reaches US $ 69.99 per week (about R $ 290, in direct conversion).
Other examples of apps are barcode scanners or even camera apps with simple filters, charging hundreds of dollars for features often free and offered in native apps, found on entry-level phones.
The list below shows fleecewares identified by Sophos and currently available:
- Face X Play
- GO Keyboard
- GO Keyboard Lite
- GO SMS Pro
- GO Recorder
- GO Security
- Z Camera
- Master Recorder
- S Photo Editor
- Wonder Video
- Photo Recovery & Video Recovery
- V Recorder
The first tip is to be aware of what the application offers: be wary of programs that promise access to simple features that your cell phone already handles, or that you find in more famous services, such as photo filters and barcode readers. Photo and video editors are also examples of apps involved in the list – it is recommended to opt for known and reliable options, such as Photoshop Express.
Another important tip is, if in doubt about an app, check the reputation of the app and the developer. Some of fleecewares from the list have low rating and testimonials from users alerting to extortion after the testing period.
Finally, if you have downloaded any application from the list – or any other that offers a trial period and unusual subscription plans – it is worth watching the application’s options to effectively cancel your subscription before uninstalling it.
Via Sophos (1 and 2), BGR and TechRadar
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