Coronavirus: Fake tracking apps mimic official tools to steal personal data

They collect private information once installed on the phone, such as identifiers

At least a dozen fake contact tracking applications have been deployed worldwide to spread computer viruses and steal user data, cybersecurity researchers revealed on Wednesday. They were designed to resemble official pandemic tools,

Once installed on the smartphone, these apps “download and install malware” to “steal personal identifiers and data,” said researchers from the Californian firm Anomali. They do not appear to be distributed through official means (such as Google or Apple app stores ) but do spread via links in other applications or websites that encourage them to adopt them.

Official imitated apps

“Malicious actors continue to imitate official apps, provided by the authorities, to take advantage of the trust they inspire,” notes Anomali. “The global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic makes the name of the virus a symbol of fear. These actors exploit this fear, ”adds the company.

Contact tracking applications have been developed in many countries, in partnership with companies. They use smartphone technologies to determine if users have been in contact with an infected person. In France, for example, StopCovid allows an individual who discovers he is carrying the virus to automatically warn all other users he has encountered in the past two weeks.

Towards a surveillance society?

Digital specialists, lawyers and liberty activists see these apps as the beginnings of a surveillance society. Anomali has found fake apps deployed in Armenia, Brazil, India, Colombia, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Russia, and Singapore. In some cases, they presented themselves as the official government app.

A British association issued a similar warning last month against software in the UK. Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the number of computer threats that seek to take advantage of the increased vulnerability of people in search of information and solutions has increased.


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