Mobile Device Security

Online fake application, beware!

It is hard to paint a topical picture of modern living without the use of smartphones and the Internet, today. The proliferation of mobile devices and applications in our society has also multiplied how these technological tools can be used to dupe us. Fake online applications and software have become one of the biggest cybersecurity threats of our time, and are likely to remain the chief concern of cyber analysts for a while. Several reports have been showing the astronomical surge in these fake applications, that are tricking users into installing malicious apps, through baiting techniques like phishing. These fake apps include adware applications, financial trojans or malware imitating apps, fake iOS, and so on.

What are fake applications?

Fake applications are usually Android or iOS applications that imitate the outlook and operation of legitimate apps while hiding malicious functionality underneath the bogus interface. Because these fake apps seem legit on the surface, they trick unsuspecting users into installing them. After installation, these applications start acting maliciously. Some are comparatively harmless as they only display paid advertisements to generate revenue, and that’s pretty much it. However, some are capable of inflicting serious damage. From purloining sensitive information and data to divulging revenue transfer channels, some fake applications can be extremely damaging.

Some fake applications have the capacity to interfere with the functions of a mobile device, like a microphone, camera, and so on. This control enables the fake applications to inflict permanent damage to the device. Worst case scenario, fake applications can be used to blackmail users with ransomware. Ransomware is encryption software that encrypts the files of the target device, so that the user cannot access his/her data, without the encryption key. This forces the users to pay ransom money to obtain the key from the hackers or bad actors, who inflicted the ransomware in the first place.

What can we do to avoid fake applications

Ramifications of downloading or installing a fake app could be grave for the end-user. The strong recommendation would be to avoid downloading any applications from third-party app stores.

Also, users must educate themselves about the widespread presence of such apps, so that they can be aware and vigilant. This awareness will allow users to be attentive to the obvious signs of fraud. There are signs such as spelling mistakes in the description, absence of user reviews, slapdash interface design, and so on.

Other than being vigilant, end-users and business organizations, who suffer as a result of these fake apps, can adopt comprehensive cybersecurity measures to safeguard themselves.

Having a strong, stable and effective cybersecurity infrastructure in place can vastly reduce the chances of any serious damage. Regardless of the operating system in use, a comprehensive cybersecurity system works well against all kinds of fake application manoeuvrings.

Last but not the least, one must always perform thorough research on the availability of authentic applications, taking official pages as a credible source of information. Constant vigilance on behalf of users can go a long way in preventing such bad faith actors from succeeding.

Like pretty much everything else in the world, the Internet has its shortcomings. But that does not mean that there is no way to alleviate the limitations and amplify the advantages. All you have to do is not to take applications on face value, and rather perceive any new app, with a grain of salt. Do due research, before you trust an application with your personal information.

Resident blogger for Zenosec, interested in all things cybersecurity.

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