Security research firm Lookout has identified 32 separate apps on Google Play for Android devices that contain malware called BadNews, according to this BBC report. The BadNews malware has been known to steal cash by racking up charges from sending premium rate text messages. Lookout says that the malware can hide on a user's phone for weeks before being detected. As a general rule the BadNews malware targets Android phone owners in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries in eastern Europe.
Lookout does not know the exact numbers of victims who have been affected by the malware, adding that figures from Google Play suggest that between two to nine million copies of apps containing the malicious program were downloaded from the store. Lookout said that it found the malware in 32 different apps including recipe generators, wallpaper apps, games and pornographic programs. Those 32 apps were available through four separate developer accounts on Google Play.
The good news is that Google has suspended those four accounts and removed all of the affected apps from its online store, but there may be more apps that contain the BadNews malware that the security firm did not find – after all, there are thousands upon thousands of apps in Play.
Lookout said BadNews concealed its true identity by initially acting as an "innocent, if somewhat aggressive, advertising network" and did most of its damage by tricking users into installing an even more malicious program called AlphaSMS that steals money by sending text messages to premium rate numbers. Users were tricked into installing it because it was labeled as an essential update for Skype or Russian social network Vkontakte.