Android smartphone owners are pretty accustomed to warnings from security researchers. Despite Google’s best efforts, malware, ransomware and fleeceware keep managing to sneak into the Play Store. And because of the vast popularity of Android, these apps soon find an audience.
And with the latest app highlighted by researchers, that audience is astonishingly large. Known as SnapTube, the Android app sells itself as an easy way to download videos from YouTube and Facebook – and has been downloaded more than 40 million times.
SnapTube is free to download. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t costing you.
According to a new report from UpStreamSystems, users with SnapTube installed on their smartphone could find themselves paying dearly. That’s because the simple download app quietly signs up users for premium services without their knowledge.
This practice is known as “fleeceware”, which is when developers abuse the ability for apps to begin charging users a subscription fee after a trial to test the service. Google allows third-party developers to charge the credit or debit card saved with your Google account to enable some of the most popular services – like Netflix, for example – to work seamlessly for Android smartphone and tablet owners.
Android app users are usually able to cancel the trial period manually to avoid being charged for the full subscription.
However, the vast majority of users simply uninstall an app when they’re not interested – or want to avoid moving to a subscription. Some might’ve forgotten that they’d even signed up for a trial subscription within the apps when they remove them from their Android smartphones or tablets. If you’ve installed SnapTube to quickly download a YouTube or Facebook video, then deleted the app and forgotten about it – you might’ve unwittingly signed yourself up to a premium service from the developer.
Estimates suggest SnapTube has already earned some $100 million (£78 million) from its fraudulent activities from unsuspecting users.
When confronted about the practice, Mobiuspace – the developer behind SnapTube and a number of other successful apps – claims that it was unaware of the issue. And that any unwanted charges to customers is due to a third-party application that SnapTube communicates with …that’s an explanation that Google seemingly disagreed with, as it has now removed SnapTube from the Play Store.
Of course, dropping SnapTube from the Play Store means new Android smartphones and tablets will not be able to download the app. However, it doesn’t remove the application from those who have already downloaded it.
If you’ve previously downloaded SnapTube – and noticed some unusual charges coming out of your current account – you should launch the Google Play Store app on your handset and tap the menu button in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. Then head to Subscriptions and find anything associated with SnapTube (or that you don’t recognise) and select it. Tap Cancel subscription and follow the on-screen instructions to ditch the charges from your account. Express