Trick or treating Android Emoji keyboard app makes millions of unauthorized purchases $18m blocked

$18 million of fraudulent charges from the app blocked by malware security platform Secure-D

London, October 31st, 2019  – A popular Android keyboard app, ai.type, downloaded more than 40 million times and included in the Google Play app store, has been caught making millions of unauthorized purchases of premium digital content, researchers at mobile technology company Upstream report. The app has been delivering millions of invisible ads and fake clicks, while delivering genuine user data about real views, clicks and purchases to ad networks. Ai.type carries out some of its activity hiding under other identities[1], including disguising itself to spoof popular apps such as Soundcloud. The app’s tricks have also included a spike in suspicious activity once removed from the Google Play store.

The Upstream Secure-D mobile security platform has so far detected and blocked more than 14 million suspicious transaction requests from only 110,000 unique devices that downloaded the ai.type keyboard. If not blocked these transaction requests would have triggered the purchase of premium digital services, potentially costing users up to $18 million in unwanted charges. The suspicious activity has been recorded across 13 countries but was particularly high in Egypt and Brazil.

Ai.type is disguised as a free treat for mobile users. It is a customizable on-screen keyboard app developed by Israeli firm ai.type LTD, which describes the app as a “Free Emoji Keyboard”. Despite the fact that the app was removed from Google Play in June 2019, the app remains on millions of Android devices and is still available from other Android marketplaces.

Source: Trick or treating Android Emoji keyboard app makes millions of unauthorized purchases – Upstream