FaceApp Might Be Bad, but Fake Lookalikes Might Be Worse

If you do not know what FaceApp is, you must have been on a social media detox lately because this app has been shoved down our throats via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all imaginable online news outlets (from The Washington Post to TMZ), and even TV. FaceApp privacy concerns have certainly been the talk of the town this past week. To those who are not familiar with this phenomenon, FaceApp is an Android and iPhone-compatible app that makes people look older or younger on chosen photos. It was all fun and games until it was discovered that the company that created the app had an extremely suspicious privacy policy. Although it has been discussed that those with FaceApp privacy concerns should also worry about Facebook and numerous other apps, the conclusion is that deleting the app might be the best move.

Unfortunately, not every single one of 12.7 million new users is aware of the FaceApp privacy concerns. In fact, even respectable news outlets continue to pump out new articles on how to use the app. Irresponsible? Maybe. The jury's still out. All in all, while we continue to discuss FaceApp privacy concerns and whether or not the app is worse than Facebook, Instagram, or any other app that can store photos and access private information, a new menace has emerged. This new menace is a fake FaceApp lookalike that is hiding dangerous adware known as MobiDash inside.

What is MobiDash, and why should you worry about it?

MobiDash is a not a new threat. In fact, it has been active for years now; since at least 2015. That is something that this adware has in common with FaceApp, which first gained popularity back in 2017. MobiDash is adware (advertising-supported software) that affects Android devices and whose removal has been proven to be complicated in some cases. When it first emerged, the infection could run with administrator level privileges, which meant that whenever users tried to uninstall it, they would be denied the right to do so. On top of that, the app would hide itself from the administrator's list to ensure that users could not remove it. The real kicker here is that only users themselves could give the suspicious app administrator privileges.

It is believed that MobiDash primarily spreads via unreliable app stores. We all know that even legitimate app stores – like Google Play, for example – can be used to spread malware, but your chances of contracting real threats are much higher if you trust unreliable and unfamiliar sources. You are also at higher risk of downloading malicious adware apps on Android if you do no research beforehand. With all FaceApp privacy concerns being discussed left and right, it should be obvious by now that even fun apps could, potentially, turn out to be extremely dangerous. So, if you do not want to install something really malicious, you need to be critical, observant, and cautious at all times. Continue reading here if you want to learn more about the steps you should take before installing a new app.

Unfortunately, things are not always obvious. MobiDash will not install itself as "adware app on Android" or "malware." Instead, it will use disguises that will help it slither in under false pretenses. That is where FaceApp comes into the picture. The popularity of this app is undeniable, despite the privacy concerns, and so it is not surprising that lookalikes are emerging. The biggest problem is that these lookalikes might be much worse than the original app. Once you download a lookalike with the MobiDash module inside, you might not realize right away that you now have an adware app on Android. Originally, MobiDash would wait three whole days before it started showing pop-up ads. According to security researchers at Kaspersky, the lookalike app fails and is removed, but the adware module continues to run on the device.

The ads shown by the malicious app could be innocent, but they could also be extremely malicious. You never know. "Innocent" ads could simply push products and services that are unpopular. Malicious ads could use fake, too-good-to-be-true offers to trick you into downloading new malware and adware apps on Android, visiting phishing websites that might try to trick you into revealing personal and confidential information, as well as putting yourself at serious security and identity theft risks. Obviously, you want to avoid that, which is why it is crucial that you do not interact with ads when they start flooding your screen. Remember that a single click could ruin your day.

What to do after downloading FaceApp and its lookalikes?

That is the question that thousands are asking today, but there is no definitive answer yet. Should you remove FaceApp from your Android device? Probably, you should. There are far more questions about this app than there are answers, and while so much mystery surrounds it, it might be a good idea to distance yourself from it. If you have signed up for its premium services already, you might have to do more than just uninstall. First, you might have to request for all personal data to be deleted from the company's servers, which, at the moment, you can only do via the app. At the end of the day, FaceApp privacy concerns are not imaginary, and so you should not dismiss them.

As for MobiDash and malware that FaceApp lookalikes could bring onto your Android device, you might need to move in several different directions. Needless to say, first and foremost, you need to delete all suspicious, unreliable, or unwanted apps. Next, you need to think about your virtual security. Is it possible that malware could have affected the security of your passwords? If that is the case, it might be time for you to update your passwords and set up multi-factor authentication. Passwords are not the only pieces of data that you need to be protective of. If misleading MobiDash ads have tricked you into disclosing sensitive information, you need to do whatever it takes to secure it, and that might entail contacting your bank, warning your friends, and staying extra vigilant.

Ultimately, FaceApp is creating chaos in the virtual world right now, and if you can stay out of it, you should. That means that, for the time being, you should not download any new apps that might be preying on those interested in seeing how they will look when they get older.

July 29, 2019

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