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What is Fleeceware-apps?

You should keep your hands off them!

Published: June 18, 2021 By Hamna Imran

We should keep ourselves safe from fleeceware apps

Image source - Shutterstock

Would you like to pay $69.99 a week or even $199.99 a year for a zodiac app, handheld reading app or even a screen editor?

Fleeceware is a term used to describe applications that exist on both Android and iOS. These applications claim to be free, provide a few days of free trial, and then the price is too high. The age of simple applications is between 30 and 300 US dollars for applications like  QR code reader, screen editor and video recorder.

Fleeceware is an application that can secretly charge users high fees.

Usually, Fleeceware applications will force victims to install a free "trial version" and then set a hefty "subscription fee." In some cases, installing such an application may cost users $3000 per year.

Fleeceware app reviews often look fake, because multiple users have left comments such as "addiction" or "my love", and actual reviews indicate that the app actually does not work or unknowingly Users charge a lot of money.

 

Of course, registering for professional and company services can be expensive, but the fleeceware app is not "weird" or has no special features.

There are two types of fleeceware :

  • One is to take a large sum of money out of your pocket at the end of the in-app purchase or the trial period
  • The other is to knock on the door every month even if you uninstall the app from the device.

Avast found three VPN applications that are actually fleeceware on the App Store. Let me remind you that this is a relatively new type of malware. The term was introduced by Sophos at the end of last year and then only refers to Android apps.

According to data from Sensor Tower, a mobile application market research and analysis company, these applications were downloaded more than 420.000, 271.000, and 96.000 times between April 2019 and May 2020.

Many of the android apps are overcharging the users even the basic features after the free trials end.


Is Fleeceware legal?

Fleeceware is tricky because malicious applications usually don’t have any malware in their code.

They will not steal your data or try to hijack your device. This means that the investigation process of Google and Apple cannot detect anything that looks like malware. Apple and Google set standards for when and how developers submit in-app purchases and subscription fees.

Some apps are saying they charge a specific price for most of their app content but then charge a higher cost at checkout. Users who don’t know how to log out can also use the app to continue to be charged for a long time after uninstalling the app.

"The App Store supports trial periods where you sign up for a subscription, and it’s free for a while, but then charges you if you don’t cancel before the end of the free period. It postpones the credit card charges in hopes the user won’t know what they are later."

Therefore, it is not illegal for application developers to make money from their creativity. However, this does not change the fact that it is actually a scam. In such cases, buyers don't know much about the procedures to cancel the subscription in the future.


Beware of Fleeceware apps

Overpriced apps lure Google Play and App Store customers with a loose trial period, after which rate them for a paid subscription even if uninstalled.

"How fleeceware enters the gray area: They are not malware in themselves, they just charge users weekly, monthly or yearly fees, which would have been much cheaper, but the cost is considerable. Avast Mobile Threat Research and Defense The person Nikolaos Chryaidos said that the sales price of this software is 9.99 US dollars per week. "

These applications do not bypass the verification process that exists in the official application store, so they have malicious behavior. Trusted by users, many people turn to VPN apps to get their Protect data while working remotely. This shows the importance of users researching VPN applications before installing them, including information about the developer, reputation, and other products.

In the best case, it is to chose some paid VPN provider, even if it is relatively cheap VPN service.

Beware of Fleeceware Apps

Image source - techrepublic.com


Fleeceware - a new scam

Stalker apps, spyware, and malware infect devices to monitor data, steal data and bombard users with ads to generate fraudulent revenue. In contrast, fraudulent apps try to trick phone owners into downloading software before charging a fee.

Online scam - Millions of users have been affected by this

Image source – vasptechnologies.com


Plan of action

Spyware and malware infect devices to carry out espionage activities, steal data and bombard users with fraudulent advertisements. Still, clumsy applications try to trick phone owners into downloading software and then charge high subscription fees. Trial period mechanism If after the free period expires, the user only deletes the specified application without canceling the subscription, the money for using the application will continue to be deducted from the account.

On the App Store, experts found that 32 software applications can charge users a monthly fee of $30 ($9 per week) for essential functions, which are usually provided for free. Experts warn that although some expenses seem small, the final result may be between $360 and $468 per year.

"The fraudulent scheme is designed to be used by those who download the app, regardless of its beautifully printed description. Therefore, children may become victims of cybercriminals because they may not be able to read or download other content for Minecraft. Understand these terms. You can accept this by installing the app. “We urge customers to be vigilant when downloading apps from unknown developers and read user ratings and payment agreements carefully before registering,” Ondřej David, Head of Malware Analysis, Avast Say.

These Fraudulent apps trick phone users into downloading software

Image source – elmundo.es

How does it draw users?

Reviews of these applications have found that they mainly rely on online advertising to attract traffic and installations and then stopped demo features and charged users because they did not follow proper trial cancellation procedures. Applications are used for other fraud and mobile attacks. These are usually harmless tools, such as simple photo and video filters and editors, constellation apps or estimation tools, QR and barcode scanners, or utilities such as flashlights and custom keyboards. Sophos researchers also suspect that fleece software developers use zombie accounts to post five-star reviews or overestimate Google Play downloads, making their products appear more legitimate.

Fleece ware has been a thing for a while now using different techniques," says Thomas Reed, a security researcher at Apple in the system-monitoring firm Malwarebytes.

Younger audience most vulnerable from fleeceware

Image source – ia.acs.org.au

Targeted users

It seems that part of the "Fleeceware" strategy is to target interesting topics and promise "free installation" or "free download" to attract advertisements on popular social media. You may have raised a lot of money.

It seems that these fleece applications are mainly used for children and teenagers. This can be drawn from the colorful screenshots and posters of such applications on popular social networks that offer "free download" or "free installation".

"If parents see the weekly cash depreciation, then nonwoven application developers can already make a considerable income," Avast threat researcher Jakub Vavra (Jakub Vavra) said.


How can you tell that you are being scammed?

How do you know if you have been deceived? First, check your valid purchases and subscriptions.

IOS

To check past purchases:

App Store > Apple ID (upper right corner) > Purchased.

To check previous purchases (with payment):

App Store > Apple ID (top right corner) > AppleID (your name/email address) > Purchase history (scroll down)

How to check active subscriptions:

App Store > Apple ID (top right Corner) > Subscription.

Android

How to check previous purchases (with payment):

Play Store > Hamburger icon (upper left corner) > Account > Purchase History.

To check active subscriptions, do the following:

Click Play Store > Hamburger icon (top left corner) > Subscriptions.

The ability to quickly check if you have made in-app purchases seems suspicious after your purchase.

If the expensive subscriptions you subscribe to are not noticed in the monthly credit card statement, you can see them clearly in your mobile phone options, as explained above.

Needless to say, but if you regularly pay to access unwanted content, please cancel your subscription.


What could save you?

Of course, the best way is to avoid wool. To this end:

  • Avoid using fake Android and iOS apps. You can minimize security threats for your mobile device in such way.
  • Don't click on app advertisements.
  • Never download apps with any bad reviews as well as lousy review's evidence or screenshots.
  • Don't click "Pay to unblock" or "Paid subscripton", sometimes even just a free trial.
  • Also, please trust apps only from well-known developers.
  • Please note that major technology companies already provide most of the essential tools and utilities for free, such as emojis, selfie filters, and QR code scanners.

I only pay for apps that have been rigorously reviewed or recommended by others. Of course, you can always check the product page in the Google Play Store or Apple App Store to see which in-app purchases the app offers.

If the seemingly boring app offers a $500 subscription fee, then you may not need it to get started.

Protect yourself from the fake IOS and Android Apps

Image source – wired.com


Conclusion

Mobile devices are restricted and cannot run some applications. Therefore, mobile users cannot live without apps. However, this is very frustrating when the application that should be provided to them is malicious.

Since developing such applications is not illegal, it may be difficult for users to figure out how to avoid unnecessary subscription fees. The best approach recommended by experts is to understand and avoid untrusted applications.

It is recommended that users strictly control the installation of such applications.

By following the above steps, Fleeceware is one of those scams that can be avoided.

Use the information and suggestions in this article for yourself and your loved ones, and you will be largely protected by the new 2021 threats. If you have experience with Fleeceware apps or have any questions about Fleeceware apps, please, leave a comment below.

Author
Hamna Imran
Cyber Security student and keen learner, writing articles for several other websites.

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3 user reviews for What is Fleeceware-apps?

Tayyaba 's picture
Worth reading the article...

Worth reading the article...
Nice one....

Ubaid Qureshi's picture
Cyber security

The thesis was well explained and presented.

R. A.W. Ayyubi's picture
What is Fleeceware-apps? You should keep your hands off them!

I have found this article really informative and this has also helped me to solve some of my ambiguities.