Nothing quite motivates like downloading a new fitness app to start a new healthy habit — something many of us routinely do every January. However, Android users have been warned that several extremely popular fitness apps could pose a threat to their phone’s security and should be deleted immediately.
Three apps in particular were exposed as potential phishing/malware scams. These apps initially promised customers rewards for their activity; However, users were then unable to withdraw any rewards and found themselves in an endless cycle of ads. In addition, the apps appeared to have accessed sensitive data from users’ phones as well.
We all know how important it is to be aware of the apps we install on our devices and the access we allow to our personal data. Of concern to customers, however, was that all three of these Android apps were highly rated in the Google Play Store (4 stars out of 5 on average) and subsequently amassed over 20 million downloads combined before the alarm went off.
Official Android advice is that users should delete any of the following apps with immediate effect:
Lucky Step – This walking tracker app has proved extremely popular with over 10 million downloads. The free-to-download app enticed users by converting real-world steps into virtual “lucky coins.” The coins could then be exchanged for various rewards. However, every action in the app would result in an ad that users had to watch before moving on to the next task.
WalkingJoy – With 5 million downloads, this app claimed you could make up to $135 just by winning tickets by taking steps, spinning a wheel and playing slots. However, the app was filled with ad walls, meaning users had to watch endless ads to access mini-games and earn tickets (which then couldn’t be cashed out).
Lucky Habit – A free downloadable health tracker app with over 5 million downloads that provides earning through in-game activity, tracking and play. Users are invited to complete all of their “Daily Goals” and earn coins by doing activities like stretching, drinking water, brushing teeth, or watching the news. Users could also earn coins by playing slot machines; However, all activities required watching ads before they could be completed.
In addition to these three apps, information has been released about several other dangerous apps that Android users should pay attention to. These have been classified as “command and control” apps (meaning they can deliver malware to your phone during an attack). Apps include:
Happy Step (a clone of Lucky Step) King Blitz Lucky Clover Lux Fruits Game Jewel Sea Unlimited Score Seven Golden Wolf Blackjack Reflector Golden Hunt
A common theme shared by some of these apps is in-app casino games like slots or blackjack. Users are reminded that games like these may involve additional risks as players may be asked to link the account to a credit card, debit card or bank account. Chris Evans, a spokesman for Casinos.win, an iGaming affiliate marketing site, warns of the potential dangers associated with unregulated websites and apps.
Evans said: “We have put a lot of effort and time into finding the safest places for players to enjoy iGaming online. Privacy and security are of paramount importance. It’s all too easy to accidentally fall victim to a phishing scam or accidentally download malware. We encourage all users to research apps and websites, read reviews from a variety of sources, and only download from websites you trust.”
Of course, this list of apps is far from complete, and more potential security risks are being identified every day. A website suggests that there may be at least 200 other dangerous apps that could potentially steal money from users’ bank accounts. These apps vary widely in content, ranging from 4K camera apps to beauty filters, astrology apps, and even some messenger apps.
The controversy doesn’t stop there. Another hugely popular app that has come under scrutiny over the past few months is TikTok. With over 3 billion downloads, TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world; With each passing day, however, more warnings are making headlines. There are several countries that have gone so far as to ban the TikTok app outright on the grounds of pornography, safety, inappropriate content and even “misleading the youth”. Due to security concerns, several states in America have banned federal agents from accessing the app through work phones. Much has been said about the app’s association with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and access to secure and private information they may be privy to — the app is owned by Chinese company Bytedance, which is required by law to share any data it collects with the CCP.
Whatever the potential threat posed by TikTok, it’s clear that apps are becoming more sophisticated, including their counterparts – phishing, malware, spyware, and viruses. The best customers can do to limit their security risks, address their privacy concerns, and protect themselves from unwanted charges, performance issues, and misleading information is to stay alert and up-to-date. Risks can be minimized if apps are downloaded from trusted sources like the Google Play Store and if users carefully read the terms of service and permissions before installing a new app.
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February 14, 2023