MASTERCLASSING

Popular weather app has been making 'suspicious' transactions without user consent

Tyrone Stewart

TCL's Weather Forecast app has been making fraudulent transactionsAn app from Chinese electronics company TCL Communications has allegedly been found to be making purchases for premium services without phone users having any knowledge of the transactions, according to Upstream, a mobile technology firm.

This is the second time that Upstream has exposed the ‘Weather Forecast: World Weather Accurate Radar’ app for its actions. In January, the app was caught triggering false premium transactions and harvesting consumer data. This led to the app stopping its background activity and being withdrawn from the Play Store.

Despite Upstream’s initial discovery, its Secure-D mobile security platform detected and blocked 34m new suspicious transaction attempts from the app after just a two-month idle period. This time round the transaction attempts were seen on the preinstalled version of the app on Alcatel Pixi4 devices and affected almost 700,000 users in just six months.

“It seems lightening does strike twice. This weather app has lain low until the storm passed before returning to its old ways – with a spike in its rogue behaviour just a couple of months after it was reported and continuous suspicious activity in deliberate regulated volumes to continue siphoning funds but still go unnoticed,” said Upstream CEO Guy Krief.

Upstream advises the owners of Alcatel Pixi4 devices to check their phones for unusual behaviour and also check their bills for any unexpected charges.

Earlier this year, Upstream found that another popular Chinese Android app was triggering ‘suspicious background activity’ affecting over half a billion users. It was uncovered that streaming video app VidMate was using software to deliver invisible ads, generate fake clicks and purchases, install other suspicious apps, and collect user data.