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That Fake App Just Stole Your ID

February 3, 2017
Reading Time: 3 mins

Emma loved tweaking photos on her Android phone.

She’d heard rave reviews from her friends with iPhones about Prisma, a new iOS app for image editing. So when she heard Prisma would soon be released for Android, she logged in to the Google Play Store to see if it was there yet.

To her surprise, she found one that looked just like what her friends were describing. Delighted, she downloaded and started using it. Meanwhile, the app—a fake—was busy installing a Trojan horse on her phone.

When she got to work the next day, she connected her phone into the company wi-fi network as usual. The malware jumped from her phone to the network. Yet no one knew. Not yet, but that was about to change…

Now, this isn’t necessarily a true story (at least, not one we’ve heard of—yet…), but it absolutely could have been. And similar situations are unfolding as you read this. Yes, possibly even at your company…

Fake apps exploded onto iTunes and Google Play last November, just in time for Christmas shopping. Apple “cleaned up” iTunes in an effort to quell users’ concerns, but hackers still find workarounds. Unfortunately, these fake apps pose a real threat to the security of your network. Especially if your company has anything but the strictest BYOD (bring your own device) policies in place. And the more your network’s users socialise and shop on their smartphones, the greater the risk of a damaging breach on your network.

Fake apps look just like real apps. They masquerade as apps from legitimate merchants of all stripes, from retail chains like Iconic and Footlocker, to luxury purveyors such as Christian Dior. Some of the more malicious apps give criminals access to confidential information on the victim’s device. Worse yet, they may install a Trojan horse on that device that can infect your company’s network next time the user logs in.

So what can you do?

First, keep yourself from being fooled. Anyone can easily be tricked unless you know what to look for. Take the following advice to heart and share it with your team:

Beware of Fake Apps!

In case you weren’t aware, one of the latest and most dangerous Internet scams is fake apps. Scammers create apps that look and behave like a real app from a legitimate store. These fake apps can infect your phone or tablet and steal confidential information, including bank account and credit card details. They may also secretly install on your device malicious code that can spread, including to your company network.

Take a moment and reflect on these nine tips before downloading any app:

  1. When in doubt, check it out. Ask other users before downloading it. Visit the store’s main website to see if it’s mentioned there. Find out from customer support if it’s the real McCoy.
  2. Check the Spelling. Many fake apps are made in haste, often where English is not a native tongue. Many have broken English grammar. Users should pay attention to spelling and grammar in any app descriptions if they have any doubts about its originality.
  3. Check the reviews. If you do decide to download an app, first check it’s reviews. Apps with few reviews or bad reviews are throwing down a red flag.
  4. Check the Developer’s Name. Users need to check for the name of the developer in the corresponding category, and avoid downloading apps that have a wrong or misspelled developers’ name
  5. Never, EVER click a link in an e-mail to download an app. Get it from the retailer’s website, or from iTunes or Google Play.
  6. If in doubt, directly type in a store’s website in your browser. and look for an icon or button that reads "Get our app." This will take you to the App Store or Google Play store where you can download the correct app.
  7. Offer as little of your information as possible if you decide to use an app.
  8. Think twice before linking your credit card to any app.
  9. Check the Deal. If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

Most importantly, get professional help to keep your network safe. It really is a jungle out there. New cyberscams, malware and other types of network security threats are cropping up every day. You have more important things to do than to try and keep up with them all.

Also, ask your IT professional about implementing a best practice BYOD policy for your organisation.

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