TORONTO – Shortly after the mobile sensation Flappy Bird was pulled from app stores everywhere, hundreds of knock-off apps surfaced. But some of those clones may have been taking advantage of people’s obsession with the game in order to spread mobile malware and access smartphone users’ information.
According to a report by security firm McAfee, 79 per cent of those Flappy Bird clones contain mobile malware.
McAfee sampled 300 knock-off apps in late March – just a month after the original Flappy Bird game was pulled by its creator – and rated 238 of those malicious.
READ MORE: Creator of Flappy Bird takes down game
Researchers found that through these clones, those operating the malware were able to take control of portions of the user’s phone – gaining the ability to install additional apps, extract data from the smartphone’s contact list, track geo-location and even make phone calls.
The malware would also allow an attacker to send, receive and record SMS messages.
“Considering how quickly these malicious apps popped up, and the number of times they have been downloaded, the situation is startling,” read the report, released Tuesday.
Flappy Bird was downloaded over 50 million times from the App Store alone. The game’s creator Nguyen Ha Dong, 29, took it down after tweeting that the popularity of the viral game “ruined his simple life.”
“We tend to trust the names we know on the Internet and risk compromising our safety if it means gaining what we most desire,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president for McAfee Labs.
“The year 2014 has already given us ample evidence that mobile malware developers are playing on these inclinations, to manipulate the familiar, legitimate features in the mobile apps and services we recognize and trust.”
The report urges users to be cautious when downloading apps and granting permissions within those apps, adding that common sense is the best tool when evaluating whether an app is trustworthy or not.
McAfee also reported a steep rise mobile malware year over year.
According to the report, mobile malware samples grew by 167 per cent year over year.
© Shaw Media, 2014