Two dozen apps that collectively generated over 472,000 downloads from the Google Play store were found to be infected with a new Android malware called Joker, which delivers a payload that perpetrates both ad fraud and data theft, a research firm has reported.

Joker's second-stage malware is a .dex (Dalvik Executable) file capable of stealing victims' SMS messages, contact lists and device information. It also secretly interacts with advertisement websites to generate fake clicks as well as sign up infected victims with premium service subscriptions that they didn't ask for, according to CSIS malware analyst Aleksejs Kuprins, writing in his company's tech blog.

The malware requests these unauthorized subscriptions are "by automating the necessary interaction with the premium offer's webpage, entering the operator's offer code, then waiting for a SMS message with a confirmation code and extracting it using regular expressions," Kuprins writes. "Finally, the Joker submits the extracted code to the offer's webpage, in order to authorize the premium subscription.

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