STATES CHRONICLE – The Google Play Store is often taken over by fake apps which somehow manage to pass the company’s security filters. This time, another app pretended to be the popular WhatsApp, and successfully tricked over one million users into thinking it was the real one. In the end, Google realized the app was fake, and removed it.
The fake WhatsApp app fooled over one million users
The impostor app was presented on the Play Store as Update WhatsApp Messenger. However, it was a fake version of the messaging service which displayed dozens of ads. All these ads were run through a malicious code, which sought to make money in an easier way.
The first ones to discover the app was fake were a few Reddit users. E_x_Lnc was the first one to notice something was wrong with the disguised WhatsApp, and informed everyone present in a subreddit on Android issues. Then, many others started analyzing the app and its source code, and confirmed it wasn’t official.
The app disguised itself so well that it was almost impossible for users to tell it was fake
Unlike other similar apps, the fake WhatsApp didn’t ask for permission to access private information. However, once the users had downloaded it, it could install on its own an APK (Android Package Kit), namely a regular Android installer, and camouflaged itself perfectly behind a blank icon. This way, it could go undetected among users.
Also, the fact that the app was fake was signaled by some space left after the name of the developer, WhatsApp Inc. This made it almost impossible for people to tell it wasn’t the real one, so over a million users downloaded the malicious application without even thinking there might be something wrong with it.
Usually, Google’s security filters detect these spaces, and can tell this is a malicious attempt to trick users. However, this was no regular space, as it was disguised with the help of a Unicode character. Fortunately, soon after the Reddit users flagged the app, the company removed it from the Play Store.
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