Despite constant warnings not to download apps outside of Google Play and Apple’s App Store, people are doing it anyway, and it’s getting increasingly worse. Security experts at Trend Micro noticed a rise in the number of adware installed on smartphones, and repackaged Pokémon Go and Minecraft software are at the heart of the problem.
While adware-infected apps have been around for ages, dubious third-party sources have been getting better at tricking people into downloading them. According to Trend Micro, a Vietnamese group named HiStore has already achieved over 10 million downloads for its counterfeit Pokémon Go app on iOS alone. That’s a crazy number when you think about it, considering how tight Apple’s ecosystem is. They also have fake versions of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
China-based Haima adds to the staggering amount by achieving over 68 million downloads for its fake Minecraft mobile app. How do they manage to trick so many people? You’d be surprised; social media is their main front, and clickbait titles distract users from downloading from the official App Store instead.
Luckily for those who got scammed, the damage shouldn’t be too critical. Trend Micro explains that the adware’s primary purpose is to dig into your smartphone and push targeted ads onto it. The scammers get paid by the advertisers for each appearance, and you have to suffer with pop-ups while playing what you thought was a legitimate copy of the game. Pokémon Go became a major success for Haima and HiStore, since lots of people wanted to get a head start over the competition during the slow global rollout.
What’s the lesson here? Don’t get too excited about downloading the newest game until it hits the official servers. As long as you download from Apple or Google’s certified stores, you’re in the clear. Trend Micro is also advising developers to fortify their software in order to prevent more fraudulent apps from being distributed.