I’ll hand it to malware creators; they’re certainly creative. Unfortunately, if you were one of the 10+ million downloads or 40+ million users of the Android app ai.type (which is also available on Apple’s App Store), you just dropped some pretty unpleasant malware on your device—malware that wants to go on an automatic spending spree.
As Upstream’s Secure-D describes, the app (which has since been removed from Google Play) started driving fake clicks on advertisements to generate cash for the malware’s creators. And that’s not the worst of it, according to Secure-D’s blog post:
“Secure-D experts found subscription verification texts to premium digital services on both devices, confirming unwanted subscription sign-ups that occurred without any user intervention.”
Basically, the malware had the power to pull up landing pages in the background of your device—ensuring you’d never notice—and automatically click your way through to a successful subscription for a service. There’s a silver lining, though: Ai.type tended to target users in 13 countries, mostly Egypt and Brazil, where it could add subscription to a user’s pre-paid mobile airtime minutes.
Nevertheless, if you’ve installed ai.type, which masqueraded as a helpful “personalised keyboard,” you’re going to want to remove that from your phone right now. And you’ll want to take some time to check for fraudulent activity, warns Secure-D:
“Upstream is advising all consumers who have downloaded ai.type to check their phones for unusual behaviour. Users should regularly check their phones and remove any reported malware. They should also check their bills for unwanted or unexpected charges for accessing premium data services and to look out for signs of increased data usage which could indicate a malicious app is consuming data in the background.”
As always, make sure you’re installing apps from verified sources and, more importantly, reading an app’s reviews—and any third-party reviews, if available—before you pull the trigger and download something that seems a little off. Consider ai.type’s description on Apple’s App Store, which already sounds as vague as it’s strange:
“ai.type is the smartest, most personalised keyboard for iPhones and iPads. Built-in prediction, completion and auto-correction. With over 40 million users worldwide, we transform the messaging experience.
Our app lets you type better and faster by learning your writing style, it allows you to customise and personalise your keyboard the way you like.”
Ask yourself: Do you really need that kind of an app on your Android device? Is it giving you increased functionality you don’t already have? Is it worth whatever permissions it asks for? Probably not. Taking a minute to analyse your need for an app, especially one that seems a little quirky, is one of the best ways to avoid installing something you won’t want on your device.