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80% of Flappy Bird clones on Android and iOS contain malware

Published Jun 24th, 2014 8:45PM EDT
Flappy Bird Clones Malware

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As if the Flappy Bird phenomenon wasn’t infectious enough to begin with, the torrent of clones that followed the app’s release might be leading to an even bigger problem. USA Today shares the data from McAfee Labs’ latest Threat Report, which sampled over 300 of the Flappy Bird clones on the App Store and Google Play only to find that 238 or “almost 80% of them contained malware.”

We’ve known about the propensity for these clones to contain malware for quite some time, but the scope of the issue wasn’t entirely clear. According to the Threat Report, the most common behavior from the infected apps include making calls without the user’s permission, send and receiving unwanted text messages, extracting contact data and tracking a user’s location.

In some situations, the malware was so effective that hackers were able to gain complete root access to the device, putting the user at great risk of losing or sharing valuable information.

Many of the text messages or phone calls are directed to what McAfee Labs’ chief technical strategist Brian Kenyon calls “shell companies,” where money can be safely removed out of the back end without directly alerting the user. The location tracking is a vital part of the operation as well, allowing the hackers to sort their unwilling clients by ZIP code.

“You can’t sell a stolen credit card number from California to a guy in Florida, because if he buys gas with it and then an hour later the real owner buys groceries in California, the security system kicks in,” Kenyon said. On the other hand, if the ZIP code matches, alarms take longer to trigger.

Although Android users are far more likely to run into these issues than iPhone or iPad owners, Kenyon says that jailbroken Apple devices can be affected as well. If you decide to go through with the new jailbreak, make sure your Flappy Bird addiction is in check.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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