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Kaspersky Lab warns users of fake anti-virus apps

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Kaspersky Lab is warning users of the influx of fake antivirus programs in app stores, which compromise the security of smartphones and other devices.

Last Thursday, May 15, Kaspersky revealed the trend through its blog, providing two examples of scammers exploiting their brand in the propagation of fake antivirus apps.

Analysts discovered the Kaspersky Mobile paid app with a price tag of around US$4, which was uploaded to the Windows Phone Store. Another app, the Kaspersky Antivirus 2014, was uploaded as a free download to the Google Play store. Kaspersky Mobile claimed to be able to scan for viruses on the user's smartphone, while Kaspersky Antivirus 2014 copied screenshots from the official page of Kaspersky Internet Security for Android to trick users into downloading the fake app.

When opened, the Kaspersky Mobile app pretends to start scanning the user's phone. However, the app shows two bars, one for the progress of the scan and another for heuristic analysis. It is a rule that antivirus apps do not show separate progress bars for the scan progress and the heuristic analysis, blasting the authenticity of this app. The creators of Kaspersky Antivirus 2014, on the other hand, didn't even attempt to simulate a virus scan. When opened, the app simply displays random statements on top of the official logo of Kaspersky. Kaspersky Lab products detected the app as a Trojan.

Kaspersky Lab's warnings come not long after a similar incident in Google Play. An app named Virus Shield was tested by Android Police, and results showed that the app did not do anything despite costing US$3.99. Google has since pulled the app from Google Play, but not before the app reached downloads of over 10,000. Google gave refunds to the users who downloaded the app, along with store credit worth US$5. 

"The story of paid fake AV for mobiles started with the appearance of Virus Shield in the Google Play store. Now we are seeing how one successful scam spawns numerous clones. Scammers who want to make a quick buck from inattentive users are selling dozens of fake apps, copying the design, but not the functionality of the original," said Roman Unuchek, Kaspersky Lab Senior Malware Analyst.

Unuchek added that there is a definite possibility that several more fake antivirus apps will appear in app stores.

"However, one thing for sure is that the security mechanisms put in place by the official stores cannot cope with these kinds of scams," Unuchek concluded.

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