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Security & privacy

Got a warning you need to update your phone? It might be malware

There are plenty of ways hackers try to steal your banking information and personal data. Spam or phishing emails are incredibly effective, and so are personalized malicious text messages.

Hackers have also been found to create fake apps that look strikingly like the real thing. Once you install it, your mobile phone will be infected with malware. But taking that one step further, a group of hackers is now trying to convince you that your phone is already infected.

In April, a malware variant called FluBot spread through a package delivery scam but has recently been found to switch tactics. Here’s what you need to know and how to stay safe.

Here’s the backstory

FluBot malware is spread through text messages and aims to get you to click on a malicious link. If you received such a message, it doesn’t mean that your device is infected. Only that you have been targeted. Tap or click here for details on earlier attacks.

The messages come in different varieties with a link of some kind. These include:

  • A package that needs to be delivered
  • Missed delivery of a package
  • Someone is trying to share an album with you
  • You received a voicemail
  • Your mobile phone is infected with malware  

The last message is the craftiest because if you click the link, that is exactly what will happen. Depending on which message you receive, the link will take you to a corresponding page. From there, you’ll be instructed to download a package tracking app, an application to listen to voice messages or fake antivirus software.

None of the apps will do what they claim but rather install FluBot malware. Then, hackers attempt to steal your banking and credit card details. In some cases, your contact book will be used to send contacts spam messages as well.

New FluBot threat

Things are even trickier now. Criminals have created an Android security warning that could show up on your phone. It claims malware has been detected on your device, and you need the update to get rid of it.

But that’s the scam. This update isn’t a patch at all. It’s actually a delivery method for malware, and if you download it, your device will be infected with FluBot.

What you can do about it

When you receive a text message with dubious claims or suspicious wording, delete it immediately. Criminals want you to open it and click on the link and often create a sense of urgency so that you act in a panic. Here are some ways to stay safe:

  • Never click on a link in a text message. Even if it is from someone you know, be very cautious.
  • Don’t install apps that are suggested through a suspicious email or text message.
  • Only download apps from the official Google Play Store or the Apple App store.
  • If you are expecting a package, it is always best to track it directly on the courier’s website.

Another way to stay protected from malware is to have trustworthy antivirus software on all of your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV.

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Keep reading

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