China removes thousands of malicious mobile apps in anti-fraud campaign

China’s internet watchdog, the China Cyberspace Administration (CAC), has decided to shut down thousands of malicious apps that impersonate major brands and government agencies and defraud users.

“Since the start of this year, the CAC Anti-Fraud Center has investigated and cracked down on 42,000 counterfeit apps,” the organization said in its announcement.

This brings the total number of banned apps to 514,000, while the number of blocked websites now exceeds 3.8 million. The register reports.

Malicious apps

In the majority of cases, the scammers posed as major brands, such as JD. Sometimes the apps tricked victims into buying products at a lower price than available elsewhere, and sometimes they advertised amazing investment opportunities. In other cases, they would simply infect victims with malware (opens in a new tab).

Each time, however, it ended the same way: the victims lost their money. The CAC says individuals lost between $1,500 and $60,000 as a result of these schemes.

Users are advised to only download apps to their endpoints (opens in a new tab) from official sources and to verify all identities before sending their money or trying to buy anything.

According The register report, the Chinese government has zero tolerance for crime and corruption, but that hasn’t stopped scammers from engaging in illegal activities. Of all the different types of fraud, those conducted by phone and email are the most common.

In 2019, for example, the popular Chinese Android app VidMate was discovered to secretly hijack people’s smartphones to use extra data, incur unwanted charges and collect personal information. The app has had over 500 million downloads.

Hidden in-app software served invisible ads, generated fake clicks and purchases, installed suspicious apps without consent, and collected user data. Moreover, it exhausted users’ data allowance, leading to unwanted additional charges.

Via: The Register (opens in a new tab)

Casey J. Nelson