SPs (Service Provider) in China had their glorious back when they could make large chunks of easy money via merely text message subscription services. However, the gloriousness faded away as subscription business was hammered in the smartphone era.

In order to find their way back to the money-making business, some of these SPs now lay their dirty hands on the relatively loosely regulated Android app market by implanting malicious plug-in into free but pirated apps and secretly subscribing them to services that charge subscription fee.

Watch out people who download Zombie vs. Plants or Angry Birds from 3rd party android markets, there might be chance that the app was contaminated by some sort of ‘parasites’.

How did SP work around carrier’s regulation?

Carriers are suppose to suspend such deeds, but SPs had their little trick to work around regulation. Firstly, they won’t charge too much at a time to attract consumers’ attention, just RMB 3 kuai or 5 kuai once. Secondly, even consumers complained to carriers and the charging channel was blocked, they could just hands down ditch the old ones and active a new channel to grab in money.

Grey Industrial Chain took shape

The grey industrial chain that consisted of “SP companies -> developers ->3rd party app market” which all contributed to the dirty business has taken shape.

It’s quite easy to turn an app into a money siphon. Developers pay RMB 25k to SP companies to get access to malicious plugin and code. Then developers can add them into any apps before distributing them into numerous 3rd party Android markets available in China. Next up, just wait for people to download the contaminated apps.

The trick works well. For example, according to a case raised by local media, one malicious app with 5769 downloads successfully charged 5047 people, a success rate of about 87%.

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto

Chelsea Dong

She reads, travels, photographs and writes, with interests in chronicling China tech scene and interpreting how technology disrupts the way people live.

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