Mobile Malware Ride The AI Wave On Google Play, Apple App Store

Fleeceware subsription price combined

Generative AI and chatbots that use them are on the list of hottest new things in tech in the past few months. And with any trend, you can pretty much count on malware makers to sneak themselves onto the bandwagon. And that’s exactly what has happened on both the Google Play and Apple App Store.

Cybersecurity company Sophos reports that the app storefronts of both mobile platforms have seen a rise in mobile apps that claim to connect users to the AI chatbot ChatGPT by Open AI. And while access to the original is free (for now anyway), these apps claim to give you a free trial access to ChatGPT, before later trying to get you to pay a ridiculous subscription fee through the nose. This pattern of behaviour has earned this class of mobile malware the categorisation of “fleeceware”.

Fleeceware Chat GBT
Source: Sophos.

That being said, the report says that fleeceware are not new, even if they have exploded in “popularity” now, to use the word loosely. Sophos states that these existed in other services that you can get for free, or at a very low cost,  all the way back in 2020. One example provided was a QR and barcode reader, the functionality of the former you can get for free via Google Lens, among other sources.

The report notes that back then, Google and Apple have both added store guidelines to fight fleeceware. But more recently, the fleeceware themselves have evolved from just being sneaky with their subscription fees to limiting functionality when victims don’t pay. But because they don’t extort you the way ransomware does, and they don’t actually access your sensitive data or take over your device, they often fly under the radar.

Microsoft Edge Image Creator generated
Generated using Microsoft Edge Image Creator.

With all that in mind, if you want to have fun with generative AI, there are at least three avenues for you, all of which are now free and easily accessible. One is OpenAI’s ChatGPT mentioned above. The others include Microsoft’s Bing AI, and Google’s Bard, both of which have left their signup-only phase relatively recently.

(Source: Sophos)

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