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Toll Malware Hits Android Smartphone Users Square In Their Phone Bill

Published: August 09, 2022 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

Toll malware is the best reason why now is the perfect time to pay close attention to your phone bill. That’s because this malware can sign you up for premium phone services without you knowing, and worse, you pay the bill. Unfortunately, that’s not all that toll malware can do.

As Microsoft explains, toll malware is one of the most prevalent types of Android malware, and like most other malware, it evolves and improves over time. Toll malware falls into a subcategory of billing fraud, a cybercrime where a malicious app registers a user for costly services.

In 2017, the first case of toll fraud was originally tracked as part of the Joker malware family. Before the malware snuck itself into Google Play Store that same year, it was relatively unknown. This finding brought it to the attention of cybersecurity professionals who believe toll malware has kept improving its malicious code since 2017.

How Toll Malware Fraud Attacks Begin

Toll malware gets planted in an app with a simple click, converting it to a malicious app. It’s an uncomplicated way for a complex malware to take hold of a device. It takes just another click or two by a user to download and open the malicious app. That’s when toll malware starts subscribing a user to premium phone services. Toll can even intercept an OTP (one-time password) that verifies the user’s identity, just one of many tools up its sleeve.

According to Microsoft, “…upon successful subscription, the service provider sends a message to the user to inform them about the charges and offers the option to unsubscribe. By having access to the notification listener service, the malware can call any of the functions mentioned above to remove the notification.” Loosely translated, it means the user is totally clueless that this is going on inside their smartphone.

How to Avoid Toll Malware

They say, “the best defense is a good offense,” which is exactly what’s needed to help avoid toll malware. Below are ways to keep malicious apps hiding malware off your smartphone.

  • Be proactive by installing a reputable anti-virus program to help alert you to malware. Research them first

  • Don’t sideload apps from third-party app stores as they don’t screen them for malware, so you never know what you’re installing on your device.

  • Read app reviews first. There you can find issues with the app you’re about to download, ranging from security to strange occurrences.

  • Pay close attention to access permissions requested by an app. You can read them ahead of time or watch for the requests as they pop-up during download. Remember, you have veto power over a request.

  • If a request for access doesn’t make sense for what the app is supposed to do, don’t approve it and rethink downloading the app to begin with. Second thoughts always deserve a second look.

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