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ai apps hiding malware
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Security & privacy

Be careful downloading viral portrait apps

AI technology is all the rage. It’s so popular that Microsoft is incorporating ChatGPT into the latest Bing update. Tap or click here for details. Now, app developers are using AI to let you create beautiful art with just a few text-based suggestions. But there’s a big problem with some of these apps. They aren’t actually designed to create art. Instead, they infect your device with malware.

Read on to find out why you must be careful when downloading portrait apps. 

AI apps hiding malware

Generating an image from a few suggestions or remixing an existing idea with different filters and styles has become popular recently. Services such as OpenAI’s DALL-E have been made available to everyone, allowing you to create art that’s only limited by the imagination.

Some creations are fascinating and could easily be art gallery worthy. Sadly, AI art generators’ popularity and people’s insatiable desire for AI art have attracted the attention of criminals. Several malicious apps have appeared in app stores, posing a considerable risk to your devices and personal data.

According to McAfee, Google took steps to remove several Android AI portrait apps from the Play Store, which used malware to steal details. For example, the Pista – Cartoon Photo Effect and NewProfilePicture apps have malware called FaceStealer.

“Each was based on the same image editor with basic filters and trojanized with Android/FaceStealer, which is a well-known malware capable of compromising a victim’s Facebook or Instagram account,” McAfee explains.

Here are a few more malicious apps that made their way into the Google Play Store:

  • Toonify Me used fleeceware to enroll users into subscriptions with high fees.
  • Fun Coloring – Paint by Number and Sketch Cartoon used adware, which bombards you with unexpected ads.
  • FacePhoto and CreatKartoon used FaceStealer.

How to avoid or remove malicious apps

Spoofed apps are clever tools used by cybercriminals. They quickly develop apps that function the same way as popular versions but hide malware.

If you have any of the apps mentioned earlier on your phone, you must delete them immediately. Here’s how to thoroughly remove apps on Android and Apple devices.

For Android:

  • Long-press an app, then tap App Info > Uninstall
  • Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications to see a list of your apps and delete them the same way. 
  • Or you can open the Google Play Store app and navigate to Menu > My apps & games. Tap on the app and hit Uninstall
  • Note: Samsung and OnePlus phones have an Uninstall option under the app shortcuts menu.

For Apple:

  • Touch and hold an app, then tap Remove App > Delete App > Delete
  • You can also use the App Library, introduced in iOS 14, to get a curated list of your apps grouped by category. Swipe past the last page of your Home screen to access it. Tap and hold the app, then select Delete App > Delete

Here are some tips on how to avoid malicious apps:

  • Turn on Google Play Protect by heading to Google Play Store > Profile > Play Protect > Settings and turn on Scan apps with Play Protect.
  • Keep your phone updated with the latest patches and fixes. We alert you to those over at Tap or click here to try Kim’s free email newsletters to get the alerts right to your inbox.
  • Use two-factor authentication and password managers for better security. Tap or click here for details on 2FA.
  • Only download apps from official app stores. Always go to the official source and double-check that you are installing the correct app.
  • Watch out for apps that use a similar logo to other popular apps or have similar functions. Also, check reviews to see if others are warning about suspicious activity.
  • Pay attention to permissions. Stay away if an app wants full access to your text messages or notifications. 
  • Read details. Some malicious apps automatically sign you up for expensive subscriptions. Before downloading any app, read its details and look for pricing. If it seems outrageous, run!

And always ensure you have trustworthy antivirus software on all your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Right now, get an annual plan of TotalAV for only $19 at That’s over 85% off the regular price!

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