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A fake WhatsApp version found its way to Google Play Store last week, and was downloaded by more than 1 million users.
In recent times, malware on mobile devices has been on the increase. This has intensified the need to be vigilant while downloading any application from any source.
Last week, a fake version of WhatsApp Messenger appeared on Google Play Store and was downloaded by many. The app, which looked official, was even made to appear like it came from the actual creators of WhatsApp. It included the real developer’s title (or at least something not quite distinguishable from the original). The app was called ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’ and was downloaded by over 1 million people looking to update WhatsApp.
According to report from users on Reddit, it turns out that the developer of the fake WhatsApp actually included a unicode character that looked like a space, at the end of the developer’s title. This means that the original ‘WhatsApp Inc’ became ‘WhatsApp Inc ’, not noticeable by innocent users.
Even though this change was not easily noticed by many, a lot of people have criticised Google for allowing such to happen.
The fake app was simply a rogue software that ran the real WhatsApp client but was filled with advertisements all over.
According to a Redditor named DexterGenius, the app also had some code to download a second apk. He said:
The 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’. The app also tries to hide itself by not having a title and having a blank icon.
The counterfeit app has since been removed from the Play Store but users are still curious as to how it found its way there in the first place, and how it remained there until it got more than 1 million downloads.
Even though Google has been trying to fight against ‘zombie apps’ on the Play Store, the fight seems more difficult than expected as there is still a large community of malware and adware on the Play Store. This has raised concerns among users.
The appearance of the fake WhatsApp simply shows how vigilant we have to be, even when downloading from ‘trusted’ sources. If WhatsApp could be counterfeited on the Play Store, then other apps can, too.