More than a million individuals were fooled and resulted in downloading a fake WhatsApp app from the Google Play Store. The copycat app which was officially named as “Update WhatsApp Messenger” was built in such a way that it looked the same as WhatsApp app. The fake app was uploaded by a developer who called himself WhatsApp Inc., this further lead to the confusion and misguided the discerning users.
It appears that the developer used tricks with the Unicode and manipulated it to make it look like a genuine update for the messaging app. As depicted from the screenshots collected from the Hacker News the developer additionally added an invisible character space to the actual name of the company: “Whatsapp+Inc%C2%A0”.
The app may look and appear authentic but once is downloaded the manipulated software would run the actual Android WhatsApp client, however, it would be covered with advertisements.
DexterGenius, a Redditor was the first to note the discrepancy and downloaded the code to decompile it to see what it does. He wrote that the app itself has limited internet access, but it is loaded with advertisements and has a code to download one other app “whatsapp.apk.”. He further mentioned that the app itself tries to hide by having no title and a blank icon.
The fake app has now been deleted from the official Google Play Store, but that is not the point. Point is that how it got enough access to land in the store in the first place. Google Play Store is an authentic and reliable source from where people download apps thinking them to be legit. The presence of this scam app has made the users thinking it to be genuine app directly from the app’s owner firm Facebook.
Google has been occupied lately with the removal of zombie apps from its store. It has even installed AI algorithms for the detection of possible infections with the Play Protect system. However, still, the existence of malware and adware on the service is a deep concern.
When inquired about the scam app Google said it’s been considered.
Recent happenings relating this scam app makes one realize that people should be alert even while downloading or updating from trusted sources. Considering the recent increase in malware on mobile phones, Google might soon be launching a “panic button” option that can be used to get out of a jam in case something wrong is accidentally downloaded.
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