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Watch out for fake "ransomware blocking" apps - They're scams!

Watch out for fake "ransomware blocking" apps - They're scams!
© Benjawan Sittidech | Dreamstime.com

Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected with WannaCry ransomware only a couple weeks ago. The widespread attack impacted victims in over 150 countries across the globe in a short amount of time.

It didn't take long for cybercriminals to find other ways to exploit WannaCry. Just last week we warned you about tech support scams that are supposedly connected to WannaCry trying to catch people off guard. Now, scammers are trying yet another way to piggyback on fears stemming from WannaCry.

What's the latest WannaCry scam?

What's happening now is, criminals are creating fraudulent apps in an effort to exploit fears over WannaCry ransomware. Researchers at McAfee recently discovered malicious Android apps taking advantage of those fears.

To make matters worse, the apps are available in the official Google Play Store. One example is called WannaCry Ransomware Protector.

Image: Example of malicious Android app (Source: McAfee)

If you do a search in the Play Store, you will find several apps dealing with WannaCry. Some are just guides, or games, or wallpapers. But others claim to protect Android gadgets against the ransomware attack.

Critical note: The most important thing to remember is that WannaCry ransomware is not able to infect Android gadgets. That's because it only impacts Windows machines. The criminals behind the attack were able to exploit a flaw in the Windows operating system that allowed WannaCry to spread.

Even though that's the case, people are so fearful of the ransomware attack they are downloading these malicious apps hoping to protect their gadgets. Some of these apps actually harm the users' device. Instead of protecting the victims' gadget, the app infects it with adware.

How to avoid malicious apps

The first rule in avoiding malicious apps is to never download apps from third-party stores. Google and Apple both have safety precautions in place that make it difficult for a malicious app to get past. The malicious apps found in the Google Play Store dealing with WannaCry is a rare occurrence and should never happen.

Here are suggestions to avoid malicious apps:

  • App stores - Stay away from third-party app stores because they do little vetting of apps, making it easier for scammers to spread malware there. Google Play and Apple's App Store are the most secure way to download apps.
  • Check the apps' developer - Verifying the name of the app developer is important. Copycat apps will have a different developer's name than the actual one. Before downloading an app, do a Google search to find the original developer.
  • Reviews - Most of the popular apps will have reviews by other users in the app store. You can sometimes find reviews by experts online. These are helpful at pointing out malicious or faulty apps. If you find a review warning the app is malicious, do NOT download it.
  • Update your gadget - Make sure that you have downloaded the latest security and operating system updates. These updates usually include patches to help protect your device from the most recent threats.

If you do think that your Android device has been infected, don't worry, we've got you covered. Click here to find out how to detect and remove a virus on your Android gadget. Please share this article with all of your family and friends who use Android, you could be saving them from a virus.

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How to protect yourself from ransomware

3 ways to spot a malicious website

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