In short: Squid Game set the internet on fire. With Netflix’s success on everyone’s lips, people are rushing to download anything and everything about the Korean show, including a wallpaper app from the Play Store that is chock-full of malware.
There is no official Squid Games app yet – not counting Netflix, of course – yet. ESETAndroid malware finder Lukas Stefanko tweeted that there are over 200 apps related to the series listed on the Play Store, and at least one of them was yet another malware that escaped Google’s guarantees.
Over 200 #SquidGame related applications are available on Google Play
Seems like a great opportunity to make money on in-app ads of one of the most popular TV shows without an official game.
The most downloaded of them reached 1 million installs in 10 days. Its gameplay is not so well managed pic.twitter.com/gCOYXXaVHY
– Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) October 19, 2021
Forbes reports that an Android security researcher using the @ReBensk handle has discovered the Squid Game wallpaper app. It was then analyzed by Stefanko, and both concluded that it was a brand of Joker malware.
We’ve seen Joker on the Play Store a few times before. It can surreptitiously register its victims for premium subscription services by simulating the registration process. It is also capable of stealing SMS messages, contact lists and device information. In 2019, it was detected in 24 apps that recorded more than 472,000 downloads and 64 new variants appeared on Google’s storefront last year.
The Joker variant in this case targeted victims of ad scams and signed them up for expensive SMS services without their knowledge. The good news is that Google identified the app and removed it from the store, but not before it has been downloaded at least 5,000 times.
It’s always best to be wary of unofficial apps that take advantage of something that suddenly becomes popular, whether it’s games, movies, or TV shows. A “mobile version” of Cyberpunk 2077 arrived shortly after the game’s launch which turned out to be ransomware.
Stefanko noted that all of the other Squid Game apps he checked were malware-free, although they were filled with benign ads. But it’s always worth checking the reviews to make sure what you’re downloading lives up to.