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Reports Of The Joker Malware Resurfacing Have Been Spotted Across Several Android Devices (updated)

A recent warning issued by the Belgian Law Enforcement Agency (Google Translated page in English) has Android smartphone users concerned about the return of the Joker virus; a threat to both personal data and, more worryingly, bank accounts.

The Joker virus, perhaps named rather appropriately after the eponymous Batman villain, gained the notoriety it currently has all the way back in 2017. Starting off as a form of malware found on certain Google Play Store apps, the virus would rob a user's phone of its bank details, with their bank accounts then following suit. Since then, Google's managed to pin down approximately 1,700 applications with the Joker malware. These were subsequently taken down before any user could download them, and suffer rather worrying consequences in the mix. It was a scare, yes, but one relieved by the Play Store's precautions and check-up systems managing to limit the virus's control.

That was back then, however. The Joker virus made a comeback in 2020, and was found in 24 separate applications. Unfortunately, they had seen over 500,000 accumulative downloads before being taken down. The malware was becoming more sophisticated and better at hiding. However, the issue wasn't reported on all that much due to there being a second, more pressing and real life virus in 2020. Also, the damage was limited to 24 applications, as opposed to the 1,700 that Google found the first time around.

Quite a few cybersecurity companies have come up with lists for the 2021 attacks of the Joker virus, detailing the infected applications that should be avoided. Examples include rather ancillary apps such as Fast Magic SMS, Auxiliary Message, Element Scanner, Free CamScanner* (Update), Super SMS, Travel Wallpapers and so on. This author would question the inclusion of SMS apps since SMS-ing someone is hardly common in today's day and age. Then, however, the remembrance that over 500,000 individuals had properly fallen for the scam washes over them.
However, as the situation unfolds, not all malware possessing applications have been shut down, or even identified in the first place. The easy answer to this situation is being careful with what one downloads from the Google Store, and being stingy with the permissions allowed to an app. If one can do without an app, they shouldn't download it. Impulsive downloading can be much more threatening to the old wallet than, say, impulsive shopping. Checking out the developers and description boxes on an application will also help identify potential hoax apps.

*Update: Previously we missed adding the word "Free" for the Free CamScanner app (which is different from the famous CamScanner app, and this caused confusion for users and the developers), we regret the error.

Photo: Jakub Porzycki / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Read next: A WhatsApp mod found to contain a Trojan malware that downloads other viruses and harms your smartphone

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