Fans of Netflix smash hit “Squid Game” have been warned about the threats posed by unofficial apps … [+]
If you’re going crazy for Squid Game like the rest of the Netflix-watching world, you might be tempted to download an app based on the smash hit TV show. But beware: Developers have already managed to get malware masquerading as a Squid Game phone wallpaper app onto Google Play as hundreds of unofficial apps have hit the Android app store.
The malicious app, which was downloaded at least 5,000 times before Google caught it and threw it out of Play, was discovered by an Android security researcher using the handle @ReBensk and was subsequently analyzed by ESET Android malware researcher Lukas Stefanko. Both determined it to be a well-known brand of rogue Android software known as Joker. In this case, anyone who downloaded the wallpaper could’ve become a victim of ad fraud or been signed up to costly SMS services without them knowing.
He said that it was hard to tell if Google was getting quicker at picking up on malicious apps that take advantage of viral hits like Squid Game, but “it would make sense,” given malware authors have in the past exploited the popularity of games like Fortnite and Pokemon, as well as Covid-19 trackers. Typically Google will check an app before and after it’s uploaded to Play for potential malicious activity, but often malware authors find ways around the tech giant’s security barriers.
Amongst the unofficial apps, one called “Squid Games—The Game” replicated the famous Red Light, Green Light game that featured in the show’s first episode. Despite its basic gameplay, it reached a million installs in just ten days. Stefanko said it wasn’t malicious in any way, while the the handful of unofficial apps he checked were also benign other than showing plenty of in-app advertisements.
But he added that the threat remains and users should take a cautious approach if downloading Squid Game apps. “I would be careful when downloading any unofficial apps. Still, if I was going to install any of them, I would advise users to read reviews from others that might suggest what the app is about,” he added.
Google hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.