Joker malware alert: beware of fake Squid Game apps on Google Play Store


In 2020, several governments, working with tech majors such as Apple and Google, launched the Covid-19 tracking app around the world. Over the next few months, they also deployed apps to find and locate the nearest vaccination centers. Both initiatives were launched to help people avoid red areas with high numbers of infections and also get information on the nearest health center to get tested and vaccinated. But, cyber criminals have abused this prey on naive phone users by deploying bogus apps to steal financial details and also intimate information for ransom.

In most cases, bad actors have used the famous Joker malware to infiltrate phones through phishing techniques, mainly by sending random emails with compromised URL links to users.

Now the cybercriminals are back with another campaign and they are using the latest sensation “Squid Game,” a popular Korean TV series on Netflix to deceive potential victims.

They have introduced the Squid Wallpaper 4K HD app and as the title suggests, it promises themes and background for phone homescreens. However, it never gets the job done, instead it commits ad fraud by anonymously clicking ads on phones and also subscribing to premium SMS services without the consent of the phone owner.

ESET security researcher Lukas Stefanko has detected the fake Squid Game app on the Google Play Store.

The bad actors allegedly used the Joker malware which is capable of hiding itself from the security filtering process on the device and prosecuting illegal acts of ad fraud and money theft.

The Squid Wallpaper 4K HD is said to be installed on more than 5,000 mobile phones around the world. Taking note of the security threat, Google removed the aforementioned app from the Play Store.

Although it is no longer available on the Google Play Store, people who have already installed the app must manually uninstall it from the phone.

Stefanko added that there are over 200 Squid Game apps on the Play Store. Some of them may also contain similar malware and users are advised to be careful while installing apps from unknown publishers.

In addition, it is recommended to install an anti-virus application to detect and disinfect malware on phones.

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