While the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns are unprecedented, several apps have already begun to exploit fears stemming from the global health crisis. Through trojans, viruses, software and other programs, they use our innate need to seek out information, against us, for malicious ends.
To help you stay aware and safe, we’ve put together a list of apps that you should avoid to protect your data and other details.
1. Coronavirus app
If you got an advertisement for or a forward claiming this app gives you updates on COVID-19 cases around you or across the world, beware. SonicWall, a cybersecurity forum warns that this app may try to embed itself in your device and steal personal information. Furthermore, based on the traces present in the code of the app, it may be able to control your device remotely.
It even issued a statement about this.
“An Android app that goes by the name Coronavirus has been spotted that requests the victim to re-enter the pin/pattern on the device and steals information, while repeatedly requesting for Accessibility Service capabilities.”
2. Coronavirus Map
This fraudster app claims to have crucial information about ways to prevent the Coronavirus infection but installs a spy software on your device.
With a Graphic User Interface (GUI) that looks very similar to the original John Hopkins University Coronavirus map, the malware tricks the user into convincing them of its authenticity. However, it also prompts you to download files which contain spyware. Make sure you do not download anything from the internet without checking if it is safe or not.
3. Corona live 1.1
Corona Live is a reliable app that gives data about infection rates, country-wise distribution of positive COVID-19 cases, the number of recovered and deaths from the John Hopkins website.
Unfortunately, piggybacking on this helpful app is its trojan version, Corona live 1.1, and research on Lookout, a cybersecurity blog confirms this.
“Upon first launch, the app informs the user it does not require special access privileges, but subsequently proceeds to request access to photos, media, files, device location, as well as permission to take pictures and record video… In reality, the corona live 1.1 app is a SpyMax sample, a trojanized version of the legitimate “corona live” application.”
4. Coronavirus Finder
Kaspersky, a cybersecurity company, has discovered a trojan that promises you to help find positive coronavirus cases near you. Once you open the app, it prompts you to pay a minimal charge to access this information.
While that doesn’t seem like a terrible bargain, sadly, the app exists only to steal your credit card and other account details. It may not even charge you the sum it asked for in the first place but now it has your very personal and very crucial data!
Trojans are apps that come in the disguise of something useful and turn out to be spyware, viruses or corrupting agents. Corona-Apps.apk is one such example.
When downloaded, this app sends out notifications every few seconds and will stop only when you uninstall it. Meanwhile, the app communicates with its command centre, providing vital information like your personal or bank details. Do not download it.
6. COVID19 Tracker
This is yet another app that promises real-time Coronavirus mapping, but is, in fact, a phishing attempt.
Once you install it, the app will ask for access to your lock screen to give “instant alerts when a coronavirus patient is near you.”
If you provide the access, the ransomware locks your phone and demands $100 in Bitcoin within 48 hours or threatens to delete your contacts and media and leak your social media accounts.
The Better India’s “BETTER TOGETHER” initiative has brought together civil service officers from across the country as they help migrant labourers, daily wage earners, frontline workers, and all those who need our help most in these troubled times. You can join us and support them in this fight against COVID-19.
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7. Apps informing you about the availability of N95 masks
Beware of apps and websites that promise you information about medical stores in your area that stock N95 masks. Sudip Banerjee, a director at ZScaler, a cloud-based information security organisation tells the Economic Times, “There are also apps that tell you where you can go and buy an N-95 mask. These are all hoaxes – the moment a user downloads such an app, it will corrupt your smartphone or laptop and may ask for a ransom to unlock it.”
Simple rules to follow to avoid malware and fake apps:
- Always double check on apps that you have never heard of before.
- Trust Google Play Store/ iOS AppStore over weblinks. Always download apps and games only through these stores
- Pay attention to your device’s warnings. If it says the app may be harmful, it most likely is
- Invest in antivirus software to protect your devices
Here are some things an app cannot do (they are your clues to steer clear):
- Conduct online tests for COVID-19
- Give real-time information on the availability of masks, sanitisers or other equipment
- Provide real-time information about Coronavirus positive cases around you
- Unless it’s a government-approved app, no app can track the real-life movement of quarantined/isolated individuals and provide the information to you
What an app can do:
- Borrow information from health organisations like WHO/ICMR about precautions to take against COVID-19
- If authenticated, provide a country-wise distribution of Coronavirus positive cases, number of recovered, number of deaths etc
- Forward rules and information as given by WHO, ICMR or the Government of India or state governments to you
- Provide entertainment/ educational resources while you are in isolation
- The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is planning to launch Corona Kavach, an app that will use your mobile number and Bluetooth to match your travelling history with that of Coronavirus positive patients to see if you ever crossed paths. It will also be able to warn you not to go to a specific location if a COVID-19 patient has been there.
- Another government-issued app, CoWin-20 aims to stop the community spread of the virus by registering a user’s travel history and determining if they are at risk of getting infected by Coronavirus.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)