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'All of this illicit activity takes place without the victim’s knowledge'

Malware that secretly charges users for fake services has been downloaded by millions of people, a new report says.

“ExpensiveWall”, software designed to cheat users out of their money without them realising, was hidden in at least 50 apps in the Google Play store. A list of apps can be found further down this page.

According to the Check Point researchers who discovered it, ExpensiveWall has been downloaded between one million and 4.2 million times.

“The malware registers victims to premium services without their knowledge and sends fraudulent premium SMS messages, charging their accounts for fake services,” the researchers said.

“In some cases, the SMS activity takes place without giving the user any notice. In other cases, the malware presents the user with a button called ‘Continue’, and once the user clicks the button, the malware sends a premium SMS on [their] behalf.”

A number of people who installed ExpensiveWall-infected apps tried to warn other users off downloading them by leaving negative reviews on Google Play. Some of these read:

“Scam!!!”
“Virus detected”
“It is NOTHING like the ad on Instagram tey [sic] lie to you DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT”
“The comments indicate that the app is promoted on several social networks including Instagram, which might explain how it came to be downloaded so many times,” said Check Point.

The ExpensiveWall apps were reported to Google on 7 August and removed from the Play store.

However, Check Point says more infected apps were made available to download on Google Play “within days”. These were taken down four days later.

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