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This Valentine's Day, Beware of Fake Apps as Cybercriminals Look to Cash in on Love

Every February, users both single and coupled tend to increase their downloads of Valentine’s Day-centric apps. These apps can come in the forms of Valentine's Day-themed wallpapers, horoscope compatibility tests, greeting cards for significant others, and love-related games. While these types of apps may seem like a fun novelty for the time being, our research has found that these romance-related apps are four to five times more likely than other applications to be uninstalled within a month of installation. As a result, cybercriminals are looking for their chance to take advantage of users both looking for love, and those who are using mobile apps to celebrate Valentine's Day.

As a result, this Valentine’s Day there are some things you should be on the lookout for.

Apps that send premium SMS texts

Some apps will masquerade as special Valentine's Day-themed apps and may try to send their own text messages in the background to a special phone number that is for premium texts. These premium texts charge the user, so the attackers earn money from this activity without the user's knowledge

Trojanized apps

A lot of attackers will take existing popular apps, and make copies of them, load them up with malware, and then place them on unofficial and pirate app markets for unsuspecting users to download. Trojanized applications have the appearance of a safe app, but can contain malware hiding in the background. These apps can then steal information from your device, and generate revenue by sending premium SMS texts.

Information theft

Malicious apps are often used to steal your personal information, including sensitive financial information that can then be used to steal your identity. Some of these bad apps may steal text message data, sensitive emails, photos, and contact information.

Grayware and leaky apps

While some apps may not set out to harm their users, they may unintentionally cause damage because of their insecure data practices. A significant number of popular apps don’t encrypt sensitive user information, and can allow phone numbers, contacts, and the user's location to end up on the Internet. Be sure to read the privacy policy to see what they plan on doing with your information before downloading that app.

One of the ways that free applications earn revenue is through advertising. The developers of perfectly legitimate apps will add third-party ad libraries to their applications. These ad libraries have usually not been examined by the app store properly and may display advertisements at a high rate. This isn’t dangerous, but can be highly annoying while trying to do things on your phone.

Practice safe text

We still want you to have fun on Valentine's Day, despite these sneaky apps. If you're looking for the right mobile app to send a greeting card or find a date, we recommend the following best practices:

  • Download apps from trusted sources: Only download apps from the official app store based on your operating system. These apps tend to be heavily verified by the app store, whereas apps being sold on third-party sites can be made by anyone.. In addition to checking out the privacy policy, be sure to check out the reviews, comments, and how many people have downloaded the app.
  • Watch for strange device behavior: Malicious software can often give away their presence by making the device behave in strange ways. Be on the lookout for signs such as slow Internet connections, large unexplained charges on your phone bill, and unusually high data usage and a quickly draining battery. By keeping an eye out for behaviors that are out of the ordinary, you may be able to catch a problem before it gets too bad.
  • Keep your software up to date: Software updates perform a myriad of tasks. These updates will deliver a multitude of revisions to your device, such as adding new features, removing outdated features, and most importantly, fixing security holes that have been discovered. Try to use automatic update if available.
  • Use Norton Mobile Security: Norton Mobile Security works beyond just finding and reporting malicious activities on a user's device. Our App Adviser provides valuable insight on problems with an app before they can be downloaded and installed. This lets users make safe decisions by keeping them informed while they are looking for the right app.
Labels: threat intel