'Angry Birds' fake app maker fined £50,000
Published May 24 2012, 16:24 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
Criminals that used popular gaming brands such as Angry Birds
, Assassin's Creed
and Cut the Rope
to run a fraudulent scam on Android phones have been fined £50,000 by a UK regulator.
PhonepayPlus, the organisation which regulates phone-paid services in Britain, has cut off a malware attack that targeted unsuspecting Android users in 18 countries, costing them £15 every time they tried to open a 'free' app.
Sanctions from the regulator will see all money returned to UK consumers on top of a £50,000 fine imposed on the provider of premium rate shortcodes that allowed the app to defraud smartphone users.
The malware attack, dubbed a RuFraud by security experts, involved fake apps being created on popular brands, such as Angry Birds
, Assassins Creed
and Cut the Rope
, which were posted to the Android app store.
The fake apps were advertised as free, but actually contained malicious coding (malware) that charged the user for three £5 premium rate texts.
On top of surreptitiously charging the user, the sophisticated attack also suppressed the sent and received text messages showing people that they had been duped.
It was only when the victims checked their phone bill that they realised they had been charged.
PhonepayPlus said that approximately 14,000 downloads of the malicious apps were made worldwide, and the fraud is thought to have affected 1,391 mobile numbers in the UK with £27,850 taken before the shortcode was suspended.
As the regulator was able to quickly identity and suspend the shortcode, none of the money taken from UK consumers' money actually reached the fraudsters.
After an investigation, the PhonepayPlus tribunal took action against the provider, A1 Agregator Limited, which controlled the premium rate payment system enabling the malware.
A1 Agregator Limited was issued a fine of £50,000, and ordered to make refunds directly to all affected consumers within three months.
"We will continue to clamp down on those who wish to take advantage of UK smartphone customers," said Patrick Guthrie, PhonepayPlus's director of strategy and communications.
"We are very pleased that the tribunal ordered that everyone affected will get their money back and that a strong fine was imposed. The digital economy is vital to the UK's future and we will continue to take action to maintain the confidence of the public."
Last September, the regulator warned over the potential cost of rogue mobile applications, after it found several cases of services charging users without their knowledge or consent