Filed Under: Banking and Finance, Finance and Banking, Mobile money, Mobile Payments, Money

Real news about fake apps

Leave a Comment

The (real) news over the past couple of years has been full of reports of fake news. Well now we have fake apps too.
 
Last week this report from ESET [1] highlighted fake mobile banking apps on the Google Play store. According to the article ESET discovered and reported a set of fake banking apps that were published and remained on Google Play between June and July 2018. These apps offered lucrative deals to the unwitting banking consumer, one for instance claiming to increase your credit card limit if you installed them. They are of course nothing more than a phishing scam – collecting account and card payment details allowing the scammer to empty your bank account.
 

 
Fake apps displaying forms to phish consumer’s bank login details (source [1]).
 
As you can see some effort was put into making the apps look authentic in order to fool the customer. But how is it that they managed to fool Google into allowing those apps onto the app store in the first place?
 
Ironically, Google has a “Safe Browsing” initiative to protect consumers from phishing and malware. Play Protect (rebranded Google Bouncer) is used to protect the store and its consumers from malware, spyware and trojans. Google also employs automated scans to detect known threats, heuristics and data analytics on metadata, big data, to monitor downloads, usage and detect anomalies.
 
So whilst Google does try to spot the technical threats that might compromise the person’s device, for example, it appears they are not always able to spot the blatantly obvious – one of the app says it’s ICICI, but the developer is not ICICI.
 
In fact, by the time the fake app was reported to Google and they removed it from the store, the damage had already been done to several thousands of trusting consumers!
 
What can banks do about this to protect their customers? Quite a lot actually. In a robust digital banking solution, the bank will employ numerous measures to establish the authenticity of the device, access channel and customer. A bank should be able to detect when there is a man-in-the-middle and when information captured on one device or channel is replayed into another device or channel. The technology to do this exists and we have been helping banks employ it for years. Unfortunately, until all banks do the same consumers will need to be extra vigilant about the financial apps they load onto their devices.
 
References:
 
[1] Fake banking apps on Google Play leak stolen credit card data, ESET, published on 26 July 2018. More information is available here https://www.welivesecurity.com/2018/07/26/fake-banking-apps-google-play-leak-stolen-credit-card-data/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.