Despite Google’s best efforts at keeping Android users safe, it seems there’s a new threat which could leave fans of this popular operating system facing a very hefty bill. According to security experts at Sophos, Fleeceware continues to be a major issue for Android with apps on the Google Play Store still taking advantage of unsuspecting smartphone users.
Once downloaded, some applications feature concealed subscriptions which, after a free trial, can leave users racking up monthly bills of hundreds of pounds.
Google has recently tried to clamp down on this problem with new rules aimed at making subscriptions easier to spot and to cancel.
However, it appears that a number of developers are using clever new tricks to beat Google’s updated terms and conditions with users then signing up to extortionately expensive apps which can cost over £67 per week – that’s more than £3,000 a year.
Sophos says that it’s spotted numerous ways in which the Play Store rules are being flouted including something called “Blind Sub” which entices people to join via the offer of a free trial.
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Once signed up, users are often left unaware of how much it’s going to cost them or how long they have actually signed up for.
Another tactic called “Spam Sub” will target users with the offer of more free apps the moment they sign up for one.
If users happen to keep hitting the join button it can lead to a bill of hundreds of pounds a year.
The final trick is to show the full subscription pricing of the app but place it in very small text and in a light grey colour which is almost impossible to read.
Explaining how these apps have managed to stay on the Play Store, Jagadeesh Chandraiah said: “Unlike some fleeceware apps which blatantly violate Google policies, some apps have adapted to changes. They have tweaked some buttons and the text used for its description. But they still charge very high subscription prices, like the $89.99 per week for the app called Montage.
“Google’s Play Store policies for subscription-based apps restrict a wide range of behavior, one behavior it doesn’t restrict is how much an app subscription can or should cost. There is an upper limit on how much apps can charge; In the United States, that number is $400”
It’s not just Android that has faced this issue with some fleeceware apps also appearing on the Apple App Store.
However, Apple has changed its app store review guidelines recently which bans apps that feature irrationally high prices.
Sophos says that it has not come across any such policies for Google play store. When the team reported to Google about these high-priced apps, a Google spokesperson told them “subscription costs are set at the discretion of the developer.”
Before you sign up to any app it’s worth checking how much it’s going to cost in the long term.
Sophos says be wary of apps that have a short trial and high costs.
And don’t forget, if you start receiving a big bill you can cancel all app subscriptions at any time.
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