Skip to content

November 6, 2017

More than a million users fooled by fake WhatsApp on Google Play Store

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Malware is on the rise for mobile devices, so it pays to be extra vigilant.

Last week, an official-looking version of the popular WhatsApp messaging application for Android appeared on the Google Play Store, and more than one million users were tricked into downloading the fake app. The “Update WhatsApp Messenger” download page even appeared to come from the actual creators, as it included the real developer’s title “WhatsApp Inc.” How could something malicious have fooled so many users?

It turns out the cybercriminal used some Unicode trickery to make it appear authentic. As you can see in the app details captured in the screenshots above from The Hacker News, the scam artist added an invisible character space in the actual company name: “WhatsApp+Inc%C2%A0.”

Although it looks very much like the real thing, installing the rogue software will run the real Android WhatsApp client, but with advertising plastered around it.

A Redditor named DexterGenius first spotted the discrepancy and decompiled the download code to find out what it really did. “The app itself has minimal permissions (internet access) but it’s basically an ad-loaded wrapper which has some code to download a second apk, also called ‘whatsapp.apk.,’ DexterGenius wrote. “The app also tries to hide itself by not having a title and having a blank icon.”

The scam app has now been removed from the official Google Play Store, but it’s curious how it ended up there in the first place, as it would lead users to think they’re downloading a legitimate app directly from a Facebook-owned property.

Google has recently been making efforts to remove “zombie apps” from its Play Store, and has even deployed AI algorithms to detect potential infections with its Play Protect system. Still, the ongoing presence of malware and adware on the service remains a real concern.

When asked for comment on the fake WhatsApp download, Google told The Register it was “looking into the matter.”

Even when downloading or updating from a trusted source such as the Google Play Store, it pays to be vigilant. Malware on mobile devices has seen a sharp increase lately, and Google may soon be introducing a “panic button” feature than can get you out of a jam if you inadvertently download the wrong thing.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • Turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades with 100 of the best Android apps
  • How to download movies from Netflix to your phone, tablet, or PC
  • CCleaner downloads are found to be infected with malware, affecting millions
  • Breaking the law not your thing? Here are the best free music download sites
  • How to remove Android malware




Advertisements
Read more from News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

%d bloggers like this: