Google pulls 22 malicious apps from Android

Search engine Google, which famously dubbed anyone trying to flog security products for its Android operating system as charlatans, has had to pull 22 malicious applications from the Android Market.

It seems that “charlatans” working for Lookout Mobile Security found apps attempting to trick users into accepting fraudulent charges via SMS.

The security outfit said that it was an “SMS toll fraud,” which involves applications that appear similar to well-known software tricking users into accepting charges via text message.

According to another “charlatan” Symantec the apps were trojan horses for Android devices that sends SMS messages to premium-rate phone numbers.

It admits that it poses very low risk and is easy to remove.

Lookout told Ars Technica  that European users have been targeted by SMS toll fraud over the past few months, and similar new threats appeared in the Android Market last week.

So far Android users in the US have not been hit by any of the current batch of malicious apps “as the fraudulent SMS code is gated on the user’s country (as indicated by their SIM).”

The first lot of applications appeared as horoscope apps with a fairly hidden ToS indicating charges.

Lookout said that the initial application activity presents the user with a single option to continue, which is presumed to be an agreement to premium charges that are buried within layers of less than clear links.

The malware worked in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Czech Republic, Poland, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Estonia as well as Great Britain, Italy, Israel, France, and Germany.

It seems a “charlatan’s work is never done.” Last week Lookout warned Google of nine identical applications skinned to appear as downloaders for popular games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, or as wallpaper apps for flicks like the god awful Twilight.

These nine applications were downloaded by only a handful of users before Google pulled them from the market.  Sheesh, just as well there are all these charlatans and swindlers out there otherwise Android would be in real trouble.