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Security & privacy

North Korea is spying by using your Google Play apps

It’s a scary digital world out there. Cybercriminals are hiding around every corner looking to rip us off and cause havoc.

When you think of hackers, the image of a creepy teenager sitting in his parents’ basement probably comes to mind. Thanks Hollywood!

The reality is, hacking groups are made up of sophisticated technicians that are ruthless and good at what they do. Matters are more dire when governments get involved. That’s exactly what’s happening now. North Korea is spying on people with the help of malicious apps found in the Google Play Store.

This is really scary

The government of North Korea was recently caught exploiting the Google Play Store. It’s using malicious apps to uncover and attack defectors of the country.

McAfee researchers discovered and dubbed the attack campaign as “RedDawn.” They are targeting not just defectors, but also people who help them defect as well as journalists associated with them.

The group behind the attack is known as the “Sun Team.” It’s a state sponsored group that is behind similar attacks from the past.

Researchers found three malicious apps in the Google Play Store associated with this latest threat. Those apps are: Food Ingredients Info, Fast AppLock, and AppLockFree.

Image: Malicious apps found in Google Play (Source: McAfee)

These apps are loaded with data stealing malware and were all listed as “unreleased” versions, sometimes called “Beta” versions. If you were to install any of these apps, your gadget would be susceptible to different payloads as well has having your critical information stolen.

The good news is that Google has removed them from the Play Store after McAfee notified it about them. The bad news, this type of thing can happen again and not just targeting North Korean defectors. Anytime you install Beta apps, or third-party vendor apps you’re putting your gadget at risk. Keep reading to learn how to stay protected.

How to stay protected from malicious apps

In the never-ending battle against scammers, Google is asking Android users to follow these steps:

Google Play Protect

One way to stay protected is to opt into Google Play Protect. It is designed to work in the background, protecting users from malicious apps in real time. Click here to learn more about it and how to opt in.

Avoid third-party apps

Only download apps from the Google Play Store. Even though some malicious apps make it into the Play Store, it does have a more thorough screening process. This cuts down on the chances a malicious app makes it in. Third-party app stores don’t have these screening processes.

Keep unknown sources disabled

According to Android, it protects users from inadvertently downloading or installing “unknown apps,” or apps from sources other than Google Play. Android blocks such installs until the user opts into allowing the installation of apps from other sources. It’s disabled by default and we recommend keeping it this way.

Make sure your operating system is up to date

Make sure your gadget is updated with the most recent Android security update. You’ll get these security updates in regular operating system updates. It’s a great way to patch vulnerabilities.

Check the app’s 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.

Pay attention to reviews

Most 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.

If you do think that your Android device has been infected with a virus, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Click here to find out how to detect and remove a virus on your Android gadget.


You’ve heard the horror stories about hackers stealing innocent people’s IDs, Social Security numbers and tax refunds. You’ve probably heard that hackers steal billions of dollars from people like you every year. It seems like a day doesn’t go by where a massive data breach spreads your personal information to the Dark Web and to who knows who. That’s why you need to know these easy tips for better computer security.

Click here for 5 simple steps to keep your personal information and financial records safe!

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