The advent of increased usage of technology in our day to day lives via our smartphones has opened up the floodgates to multiple new ways of getting scammed, having our data stolen or just getting hacked. While mobile apps have been the most effective way for scammers and hackers to trick users, it’s reaching a whole new level.
Quite recently it has been discovered that a new breed of mobile apps is scamming people as a part of a major ‘app fraud campaign’.
According to Sophos, which is a British security software and hardware company, a new breed of apps which are being termed as ‘fleeceware’ is conning smartphone users by exploiting the loopholes of a free trial. These apps have been found to be more widely spread than originally anticipated.
The security firm, via its research division, has reportedly found that there are more than 30 iOS fleeceware apps readily available to be downloaded via the official App Store. They have also said that as these apps have already been installed 3.6 million times by iOS users, it is very much possible huge financial losses worth millions have already occurred.
What are Fleeceware Apps?
The Fleeceware apps have the ability to mask themselves as a wide range of apps such as image editors, horoscope/fortune-telling/palm reader, QR code/barcode scanner, and face filters. The fleeceware apps encourage unsuspecting users to install them through aggressively targeted falsified advertisements.
After being installed, these apps offer a short free trial period but do not alert the users once the period is close to ending. This leads to the app quickly charging a huge monthly fee. In many occasions, it has also been observed that these apps require in-app purchases so that they can be used properly, therefore the users end up paying for way more than they had anticipated.
You may think that simply deleting the fleeceware app might make the problem go away, however, it is not true as it won’t cancel the recurring payment. All thanks to a policy loophole, developers can now create their own steps for cancellation for trials. This loophole allows the fleeceware apps to force the users to follow through a complex and lengthy procedure to remove the app so that in the meantime it can collect the payment.
Also, this isn’t the first time fleeceware apps have come under the light. Back in the month of January, the same security firm Sophos uncovered that Android fleeceware apps were installed nearly a whopping 600 million times.
Jagadeesh Chandraiah who is a senior security researcher at SophosLabs and the author of the report in a statement said that the iOS fleeceware apps were observed to overwhelmingly overcharge the users who installed them.
He also added that fleeceware apps however not entirely malicious are definitely unethical as they prey on vulnerable consumers by using techniques designed to dupe them and take their money.
Need Of Awareness Against Potential Online Scams And Threats
It is now being recommended by the SophosLabs that Android and iOS users spend time to familiarise themselves with threats such as fleeceware apps that exist on the internet so that they can better safeguard themselves.
All smartphone users should try to familiarise themselves with not just how to delete an unwanted app from a device but also learn how to cancel tricky and lengthy subscriptions. Users are also advised to take a closer look at an app before they install it.
Coming to the source of it all, it is high time that all iOS and Android app stores tighten their process of approval for listing new apps in their repository to prevent threats such as fleeceware to potentially affect millions of users who download it.