Fake antivirus apps appear in Android, Windows app stores

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, except when it comes to fake applications posing as something else.

When a number of new fake antivirus apps were detected in the Android and Windows Phone app stores by malware analysts from Kaspersky Lab, one of the programs was actually called “Kaspersky Mobile.” The fake app was selling for around US$4 and used the Kaspersky Lab logo. But Kaspersky Lab doesn’t even make anti-virus software for Windows Phone.

Last month Google wound up offering refunds to users who bought a fake antivirus app from Google Play, according to an article on Computerworld. But that was just the beginning and the scam now seems to be catching on.

The attacks are spreading, now targeting the Windows app store as well as the more commonly targeted Google Play. And the number of ‘brands’ being mimicked is increasing to include Avira Antivirus, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera Mobile, Internet Explorer and Safari.

One fake Windows Phone application used the same name as a fake antivirus app found in Google Play in April – Virus Shield. The Android version actually became quite popular, being downloaded over 10,000 times and appearing on a number of “top paid” lists – ins pite of the fact that it did nothing to protect anything.

When the fraud was discovered Google removed the application and offered refunds to affected users, as well as store credits.

The Kaspersky-branded fake app in the Windows Phone Store actually pretended to do anti-virus scanning, but the Android version didn’t even bother, Kaspersky Lab says. The description of the app was copied from the official Google Play page for Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which is a real product.

While users can derive some comfort from the fact that the bogus applications don’t actually do real harm, such as compromising personal information or damaging the mobile devices, the trend – and the apparent inability to keep the frauds out of the app stores in the first place – is worrisome.

“It is quite possible that more and more of these fake apps will start appearing,” said Roman Unuchek, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab. “One thing is for sure – the mechanisms put in place by the official stores are clearly unable to combat scams like this.”

Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks is managing editor of IT World Canada. He has been a technology journalist and editor for 20 years, including stints at Technology in Government, Computing Canada and other publications.

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