09 Nov'17

Users and developers identified fake WhatsApp on Google Play Store

A forged version of the WhatsApp messenger app was downloaded over one million times before it was removed from the Google Play Store, BBC reports.


The fake WhatsApp app was made to look identical to the real one; the only difference was that in the title a special character was used to create a space. It largely went unnoticed by the average user.


A contributor on the web forum Reddit, explained‘The [fake WhatsApp] app itself has minimal permissions (internet access) but it’s basically an ad-loaded wrapper which has some code to download a second apk, also called “whatsapp.apk”’.


Another contributor was of the opinion that ‘This is an epic failure from Google’.


This is not the first incident of WhatsApp being copied. The security company ElevenPaths drew attention to ‘an almost exact copy of WhatsApp’ in 2013 that also appeared in Google Play.


The creation of fake apps is an issue for Google. According to the security firm Symantec, they ‘encountered a new and highly prevalent type of Android malware (detected as Android.Sockbot) posing as apps on Google Play’. They identified eight apps being installed in the range of 600,000 and 2.6 million, one of which was Minecraft Pocket Edition.


Lukas Stefanko, a security professional, reported that ‘ESET researchers discovered fake Prisma apps of different types’. Stefanko added that the most dangerous fake Prisma apps that were found by the researchers were trojan downloaders, misleading users of its true intent.


In Forbes’s report of the most recent incident of WhatsApp being copied, they state that Google have said that they are rolling out smarter technology to find bad apps earlier. However, ‘Google still relies on the community of users and developers to flag apps for further checks’, a spokesperson added.