Fleeceware is a malicious application that tricks users into paying money for simple apps with functionality that’s readily available for free elsewhere. Fleeceware is successful on Google’s Play Store (rather than the Apple App Store) because it takes advantage of a business model widely used in the ecosystem, allowing users to download and use apps for a short trial period without paying. However, when the trial expires, if the user who installs one of these apps hasn’t both uninstalled the application and informed the app developer that they’re finished with the app, fleeceware app developers can still charge the unsuspecting user. This model is similar to “free trial” offers, putting the responsibility of canceling services on the user.

 Researchers investigating these apps state they pose a number of challenges or annoyances to those getting “fleeced”. Not only do they get charged money with very little meaningful value, but there’s very “little recourse” if they seek a refund after realizing they’ve been fleeced. That’s because Google Play Store policies are “significantly less consumer-friendly” than ones from typical U.S. credit-card companies, they said.

In the worst Fleeceware cases, these apps contain malware that exfiltrates contact lists, device information, and can hide their icons from the home screen as was reported by researchers looking into the ‘Color Message’ fleeceware attacks, where this application contained malware known as the “Joker” and was known to transfer Android user data to servers in Russian.

What does this mean for an SMB?

Avoiding Fleeceware

First, Android Users should delete the ‘Color Message’ app immediately if installed and follow the instructions below to cancel your subscription to avoid becoming a fraud victim. Users can also check for other applications they may be subscribed to, by following these instructions for Google or Apple accounts:

How to Check IOS (APPLE) Subscriptions
  • Open Settings
  • Tap your Name
  • Tap Subscriptions to view and manage everything
  • Alternatively, open the App Store,
    • Tap your Initials in the upper right corner
    • Tap Subscriptions to view and manage everything
How to check ANDROID (GOOGLE) subscriptions
  • Open the Play Store
  • Tap the Hamburger Menu Icon in the top right corner
  • Choose Subscriptions to view and manage your signups

Cybersecurity Recommendations

It’s important to always be sure you’re installing a safe application on your devices. Always check reviews, the country of origin of the application, and the reputation of the developers. Additionally. the recommendations below will help you and your business stay secure against the various threats you face on a day-to-day basis.

All of the following suggestions can be accomplished in your company by hiring CyberHoot’s vCISO services. For a vCISO proposal, please email Sales@CyberHoot.com.:

  1. Govern employees with policies and procedures. All companies need password, acceptable use, information handling, and written information security policies (aka: WISP) at a minimum.
  2. Train employees on how to spot and avoid phishing attacks. Adopt a learning management system like CyberHoot’s product to teach employees the skills needed to become more confident, productive, and secure.
  3. Test employees with Phishing attacks to practice. CyberHoot’s Phish testing allows businesses to test employees with believable phishing attacks and put those that fail into remedial phish training.
  4. Deploy critical cybersecurity technology including two-factor authentication on all critical accounts. Enable email SPAM filtering, validate backups, deploy DNS protection, antivirus, and anti-malware on all your endpoints.
  5. In the modern Work-from-Home era, make sure you’re managing personal devices connecting to your network by validating their security (patching, antivirus, DNS protections, etc) or prohibiting their use entirely.
  6. If you haven’t had a risk assessment by a 3rd party in the last 2 years, you should have one now. Establishing a risk management framework in your organization is critical to addressing your most egregious risks with your finite time and money.
  7. Buy Cyber-Insurance to protect you in a catastrophic failure situation. Cyber-Insurance is no different than Car, Fire, Flood, or Life insurance. It’s there when you need it most.

All of these recommendations are built into CyberHoot’s product and/or vCISO services. With CyberHoot you can govern, train, assess, and test your employees. Visit CyberHoot.com and sign up for our services or email Sales@cyberhoot.com for a free consultation. Do it today as you never know when an attack will occur. At the very least continue learning by enrolling in our monthly Cybersecurity newsletters to stay on top of current cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and breaking news.

To learn more about Fleeceware, watch this short video:

CyberHoot does have some other resources available for your use. Below are links to all of our resources, feel free to check them out whenever you like: 

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