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Scam Alert: COVID-19 Map Malware Spies via Phone Camera and Mic

It’s despicable, but I heard this morning that the Dark Web is calling this the “golden age for scammers.”

It’s no surprise – the world is on lock-down and suddenly 100% dependent on technology for communication, using primarily insecure methods and applications. This latest scam preys on the climate of fear and vulnerabilities in your smartphone’s camera and microphone to spy on you. Here’s how it works:

You may receive a text message saying your should download or even come across an app in the Google Play store disguised as the legitimate Corona Live app. The legitimate app provides data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker of infection rates and deaths. The fakers deliver a malicious payload based on SpyMax, commercial spyware that allows criminals to turn on your phone’s camera and microphone at will to record you and your surroundings. At this time over 30 fake Coronavirus tracking Apps have been identified in the Play store but the true number is likely much higher.

The Takeaway

Do your research before downloading an app. I know, it can be tempting to download the latest dog grooming app to entertain your kids but check it first using Google Play Protect. Google Play Protect scans up to 50 billion apps every day in an attempt to identify and remove any bad apps from the Play store. When Google first launched Play Protect, the service only scanned apps installed from the Play store. Now, it scans every app installed on your device, regardless of source. It’s a good idea to make sure Google Play Protect is enabled and double-check app updates before they are installed.

To view your Android device’s last scan status and make sure Play Protect is enabled go to Settings > Security. The first option should be Google Play Protect – tap it. You’ll find a list of recently scanned apps, any harmful apps found, and the option to scan your device on demand.

Play Protect should be enabled by default on your Android device, but it’s a good idea to visit the above settings page to double check.

When you install of an app from the Play store, you’ll find the Play Protect badge underneath the progress bar, reassuring you the app has been “Verified by Play Protect” and is safe to install at on your phone. Hopefully this helps you stay better protected during this time of crisis.

Stay safe out there



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