Last month, Google removed 25 Android apps from its Google Play Store after discovering they were stealing users’ Facebook account credentials.
The malicious apps, identified by security company Evina, appeared to be created by the same developer, Rio Reader LLC, and were downloaded more than 2.34 million times before Google decommissioned them.
The apps, which mimicked legitimate applications such as step counters, image editors, video editors, wallpaper apps, flashlight apps, file managers and mobile games, shared the same malicious code, enabling them to steal login credentials of any Facebook user.
“When an application is launched on your phone, the malware queries the application name. If it is a Facebook application, the malware will launch a browser that loads Facebook at the same time,” researchers said. “The browser is displayed in the foreground which makes you think that the application launched it. When you enter your credentials into this browser, the malware executes java script to retrieve them. The malware then sends your account information to a server.”
Most of the apps appear to have been created in 2019, with downloads numbering between 10,000 and 500,000. This means the bad actors were able to harvest the credentials of many Facebook users before being shut down. The full list of apps, created date and number of installs can be seen below:
Luckily, when Google removes an app from the Play Store, the company also disables the application installed on users’ devices, and notifies customers through its Play Protect service.
Google has been removing apps that are laced with adware or unsafe from its platform since the beginning of the year. While not all bogus apps are discovered and removed in due time, Android users can also play an important role in spotting them.
The next time you search for an app, pay attention to the reviews and number of downloads. Unprofessional-looking apps boasting one-word four- or five-star reviews most harbor a hidden agenda.