Fake Minecraft Apps for Android See 2.8 Million Downloads

Minecraft fans beware: ESET researchers have discovered more than 30 fake applications available for download on the Google Play Store.

The malicious applications, which pretended to be cheats for the popular world-building-with-pixels game, have been installed by more than 600,000 Android users, an analysis has uncovered.

According to Lukas Stefanko, ESET researcher, all of the discovered apps were fake, in that they did not contain any of the promised functionality and only displayed banners that tried to trick users into believing that their Android system is infected with a “dangerous virus.” In a classic scareware technique, users were then directed to remove these nonexistent viruses by activating a premium-rate SMS subscription that would cost them 4.80 EUR per week.

“All of the identified scareware apps behaved in a similar way, the only differences being in the names and icons of the applications,” he explained. “They were uploaded to the Play store by different developer accounts, but we assume that these were all created by one person.”

Despite receiving poor user reviews and negative comments, the total number of installations of all 33 scareware applications lies between a staggering 660,000 and 2.8 million.

If the victim falls for the warning, the scareware prepares an SMS, which appears as an activation of the bogus antivirus product. The application does not have permission to send the SMS itself and solely relies on tricking the user to do it manually by social engineering.

Generally, Android users can effectively avoid the installation of malicious or unwanted applications by spending some extra time to read reviews from people who already installed it and to consider what permissions an app requests during installation.

Stefanko noted that the good news is that it’s not easy to slip a malicious application into Google’s official Play Store these days despite its reputation. Google’s automated application scanner, Bouncer, helps in reducing the number of malware on the official app store.

“Google’s Bouncer has been used since late 2011 on all uploaded applications and it has decreased the percentage of malicious applications in the store by about 40%,” he said. “In March 2015 Google announced that all applications will also be reviewed by humans. This step should increase security and further lower the amount of malicious applications on Google Play.”

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