Just last week, more than 1 million Android users downloaded a fake WhatsApp app from the Google Play Store. The app (removed now) went by the name ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’.
As you may notice in the image below, the developer title is ‘WhatsApp Inc.’ which is the same one used by the genuine WhatsApp App. What the fake app’s developer did was, they added a Unicode character space after the title. To users browsing on Google Play, the name will appear as ‘Whatsapp Inc.’ but in a computer code, it is actually WhatsApp+Inc%C2%A0. So, it’s likely for most users to believe that this is the real app.
Reportedly, users who downloaded the fake WhatsApp app were swarmed by pop-up advertisements – which clearly suggest the intention of the scammer to generate ad revenue. Although no malicious activity was reported, if fake apps keep getting into the Google Play Store in this manner, it is only a matter of time before attackers launch a fully-fledged cyberattack on unsuspecting users.
So, how do you stay vigilant?
This incident of the fake WhatsApp App only goes to show how easily scammers and attackers can trick us into downloading dodgy apps even in official stores like Google Play. So, here are a few safety measures you can consider.
- If you want to update an app, always go to the ‘My apps & games’ section in your Google Play App and tap on update. That way, you can ensure the update is genuine and not a fake.
- This tip might sound like an overkill to some, but I’d still mention it because better safe than sorry – if you are downloading a new app, visit its manufacturer’s official site first and look for the download link. Click on the link and once you are on the app’s Google Play page, check for the reviews and ensure the developer’s website is in place.
- Never download apps or any software by clicking on links received in emails, SMSs or over WhatsApp.
- If you are searching for an app on Google Play and multiple, identical apps show up, then visit the app’s official website and compare the information.
- Protect your device with a reliable mobile security app that can prevent fake apps from getting installed on your device.
Quick Heal Total Security app helps you keep your device safe from such fake apps with its newly introduced features called Scan Before you Download and On Install App Scan.
Scan Before you Download
This feature automatically scans apps even before you download them from the Google Play Store. It also informs you whether an app is safe to install or not. If it’s not, the feature displays the risks of installing the app.
On Install App Scan
Scans newly installed apps on the device to detect and prevent threats.
Know more about these features here.