Google play store is full of fake Android apps and scammers create such app listings in such a way that they look very similar to some of the popular and well-known apps with same name and icon. The main purpose of create such fake apps is to trick common people into downloading them so that they can bombard app users with malware and ads.
We will focus on ways you can recognize as well as avoid using these apps.
How to spot fake Android apps?
The issue of fake Android apps recently came into prominence when people noticed presence of fakes of popular apps such as WhatsApp getting downloaded by 1 million people on Google play store.
Similarly, fake versions of popular apps such as VLC and SwiftKey keyboard have been found in play store.
Google did remove these fake apps (commonly called doppelgangers) from its listing but on your part, you need to stay aware of things that need to be done to spot such fakes and report them to Google.
These apps can easily steal your personal details as well as track things you do online, so it is better to avoid such fake apps. Watch this excellent abcNEWS video which gives an insight into what hackers can do by using these fake apps.
How come people get tricked by fake apps?
Let us look at how fake WhatsApp and VLC apps were able to trick users.
The Fake WhatsApp App
To start with, it was very hard to distinguish it from the real WhatsApp app and developer’s name was also totally identical in visual terms.
What scammers did was put a hidden character after name of the developer so that it looked like the original WhatsApp Inc but in technical terms, the name was different due to this hidden character that was placed at the end of developer’s name.
Following image on the right clearly displays the special character that has been added to the name and the image on the left is for the original WhatsApp listing on Google Play Store.
The main thing here was that it was made to look identical to the original WhatsApp app in terms of its verbiage, icon and the name of the developer, it was really hard to differentiate it from the original app listing.
The Fake VLC App
Another of the popular fake apps is the VLC app which used open source code of VLC as well as its classic icon to trick used in downloading the same. The app was full of ads and it was hard to distinguish it from the original video player app.
Is Google doing something to fight against these fake apps?
To address this issue, Google has started what is called as Google Play Protect which is a type of security system that is used for verifying apps present in Google Play Store.
The function of this app is to weed out malicious as well as fake apps right at the time they are submitted for entry into the Play Store.
But it is still pretty new and as such, the problem has not been fully resolved. As such, it would be necessary for you to stay vigilant and trace these fake apps before they cause any type of problem. So, let us look at steps you can take to spot fake Android apps.
Ways to Spot Fake Android Apps
Most important you will have to do here is pay close attention to pays you are going to install and when you are sure that it is a genuine app, then only move ahead with installing the same. Let us now go through some of the things you can do to spot these fake apps.
Step #1: Analyze the Search Results
When you search for a specific app on the Google Play Store, keep an eye on the search results that show up. This type of examination will be necessary when you check there are multiple icons for the same app.
If you do find multiple icons for the same app then next thing to analyze will be name of the app and its developer.
Step #2: Examine Name of the App and Its Developer