We often rely on official app sources like Google Play and the Apple App store to protect us from malicious and fake apps, because they have vetting systems in place that prevent corrupt developers from tricking users into installing shady apps. Although, app screening cuts down on the chances a malicious app makes it in, sometimes a sneaky developer finds a way to trick these systems into accepting a questionable app.
Most of the time, they will disguise their malicious apps as legitimate services like WhatsApp or popular games like Pokemon Go to fool the app stores and their users. In the fake WhatsApp’s case, they tweaked their developer ID to resemble the real name, by adding an almost invisible unicode character space after their ID. It was so effective, that the fake app was downloaded over a million times from the Google Play Store!
Like malicious apps from third-party sources, fake apps from official app stores can do all sorts of shady stuff in the background, like nasty ad-clicking malware, ransomware, and stealing your financial details. You can count on the bad guys to find new ways of generating profit at your expense.
How to spot fake apps:
Although fake apps that look legitimate can sneak into the official app stores, there are typical warning signs to watch out for before you download and install.
- Check for typos- Before you download a new app always double check the title and the developer name for typos.
- Check for bad grammar-Another blatant red flag is bad grammar, because a good number of these fake apps appear to come from non-English speaking developers.
- Check the numbers-Always check download stats. If an app is popular, like Facebook has an unusually low download figure, then it’s most likely a fake app.
- Check reviews-Although, fake reviews (both positive and negative) can skew the rating of an app, user comments can still provide vital information about it.
- Superfluous permissions-Before you install ANY app, please check all of the permissions it is asking for first. Fake apps will bombard you with a long list of permission requests, so they can trick you into granting them more than what is required.
How to delete them:
To review and remove questionable apps on Android, go to Settings>Apps, look through the list and keep an eye out for anything that’s odd or unfamiliar. Tap the questionable app you want to get rid of and this will open up the App info screen. First remove the app’s date cache by hitting “Clear Cache”. Next, delete the app’s data by tapping “Clear Data”. Once these steps are done, click on the “Uninstall” button to remove the app.
Sometimes, sneaky app developers hide their fake apps by making their titel and icons invisible. If that’s the case, look for blank spaces in your Application Manager and uninstall them as usual. For stubborn apps that have hijacked your gadget’s administrator permissions, try removing them in Safe Mode. Unfortunately, if that doesn’t work, your only other option is to wipe your data, factory reset your device, and start over.
Kim Komando. Fake Malware Apps, How to Spot and Delete Them. December 30, 2017. Francis Navarro. Weststar, Multimedia Entertainment, Inc.Fake Malward Apps