Watch out for fake antivirus apps on the app stores!

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A few weeks ago, there was a worldwide ransomware attack. This attack, dubbed WannaCry, crippled over 200,000 computers worldwide. The perpetrators of the ransomware attack used an exploit, discovered by the NSA and leaked by hackers, that targeted outdated Windows systems. However, it had nothing to do with mobile devices. This did not stop other developers from creating WannaCry protection apps for smartphones. Now, cybersecurity firm RiskIQ has found several of these fake antivirus apps to be filled with malware.

RiskIQ discovered seven different apps related to WannaCry in Google Play Store and two in Apple’s App Store that demanded excessive permissions. These included permissions for things like knowing your phone’s wake password. As a result, one of these apps has been blacklisted by RiskIQ’s standards. Other researchers have found hundreds of fake antivirus apps on the market, filled with adware, Trojan horses and various other sources of malware.fake antivirus apps

Researchers found out that out of 4,292 active antivirus apps, 525 set off malware alarms for RiskIQ. Of these 525 fake antivirus apps, 508 were in the Google Play Store. There rest were from third-party app stores.

One example of the mobile antivirus apps is the “Androids Antivirus” app, which was found in the Mobiles24 app store. This app contained five different variants of malware written into its code, with fake alerts, Trojans and attacks on the Android operating system. it had been downloaded more than 3,500 times.

iOS devices are not so safe either. A Medium post by app developer Johnny Lin described how he discovered a fake iOS app called “Mobile Protection: Clean & Security VPN”. This app happened to reach the top 10 grossing apps list before it was removed from the app store. This app would scan your device’s contact list and proclaim that your iPhone was at risk because it did not have a “secure internet”. After installing it, your phone would display pop-up ads for some bubble shooter game and a free antivirus trial which would result in a $99.99/week subscription. That’s just absurd.

RiskIQ recommends that you crosscheck all your apps before downloading. Check for red flags like grammatical errors, for example. The antivirus app Mr. Lin described had a tagline that read, “ANTI VIRUS: Instantly use full of smart anti-virus”.


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