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Uber London Ban Sees Rise in Malicious Taxi Apps

Security researchers have warned of a rise in malicious apps masquerading as legitimate taxi-hailing services, as cyber-criminals look to capitalize on Transport for London (TfL)’s recent decision to ban Uber.

TfL issued its controversial decree last Friday, immediately leading to strong calls from all sides to have the private hire company reinstated. A petition has so-far accrued over 820,000 signatures from irate users of the service.

As with most things, it appears as if the black hats are already trying to coat-tail on the news, in a bid to lure Uber users looking for an alternative way to get around London.

Official apps for Addison Lee, Gett and MyTaxi saw downloads collectively soar by 159% over the week, according to App Annie figures seen by the BBC.

However, RiskID said it looked at five taxi hailing apps and found 56 instances of each app with the company’s brand in the title.

“These apps were on average found in 20 different app stores, with an average of two apps per brand that are flagged as serving adware or directing to known bad sites,” warned EMEA VP, Fabian Libeau. “Users need to be aware of their existence and potential growth in number.”

He urged users to visit only official app stores when downloading apps, and to check the developer to make sure they’re legitimate.

“Checking out the number of downloads and reviews it has received will also help. Finally, inspect the permissions the app is asking for,” he concluded. “While a taxi app will require more than others, beware of requested permissions that don’t seem necessary. For example, during our initial insight, we saw camera or Bluetooth access, as well as admin privileges and download without a notification.”

In reality, there’s no rush to find a new app. Uber is still allowed to operate in the capital while it prepares its appeal and won’t be officially banned until the current license expires on September 30 2018.

The ban was levied due to concerns over Uber’s approach to reporting serious driver offences, driver safety and medical checks, and its use of controversial Greyball software to evade TfL officials.

However, many have leaped to the defense of the service, which is used by an estimated 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in London. Many punters complain London’s black cabs are expensive, slow, dirty and unsafe.

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