Pokémon GO Craze: ESET Warns of Fake Apps

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All of the fake apps discovered by ESET and detected by ESET Mobile Security - lockscreen app named Pokemon GO Ultimate and scareware apps “Guide & Cheats for Pokemon Go” and “Install Pokemongo” are no longer available on Google Play. They have already been removed from the store at ESET’s recommendation. 

Having been available on Google Play for only a short time, the apps only managed downloads numbering in the thousands. The Install Pokemongo app attracted 10.000 - 50.000 victims, the Guide & Cheats for Pokemon Go reached between 100 – 500 and the most dangerous of them, the Pokemon Go Ultimate reached 500 - 1.000 downloads. 

Pokemon Go Ultimate resembles a version of the much hyped game but its true functionality is malicious:  it deliberately locks the screen immediately after startup. In many cases, reboot – the intuitive solution for a frozen screen - is not available because the app overlays all the other apps as well as the system windows. Users must resort to restart their devices device either by pulling out the battery or using Android Device Manager. After reboot, it runs in the background, invisible to the victim, silently clicking on porn advertisements. To get rid of it, the user needs to go to Settings -> Application manager -> PI Network and then uninstall it manually.  


“Pokemon Go Ultimate is the first observation on Google Play of lockscreen functionality being successfully used in a fake app. As its ultimate functionality is clicking on porn ads, it’s not truly damaging. But as for its lockscreen functionality, it’d only take adding a ransom message to create the first lockscreen ransomware on Google Play,” explains Lukáš Štefanko, ESET Malware Researcher. 

Along with the Pokemon GO Ultimate app which bears signs of both Screen Locker and Porn Clicker, ESET researchers also found other Pokémon GO related malware on Google Play. Bogus apps named “Guide & Cheats for Pokemon Go” and “Install Pokemongo” on Google Play, belong to the Scareware family. They trick their victims into paying for unnecessary services. Promising to generate Pokecoins, Pokeballs or Lucky Eggs - up to 999.999 each day – they lure victims into subscribing to expensive bogus services. (Such functionality has recently been described in an article published on ESET’s blog, WeLiveSecurity.com). 


“Pokémon GO is such an appealing game that despite of all the warnings by security experts, users tend to accept the risks and download anything to catch all the Pokémon. Those who really can’t resist the temptation should at least follow the most basic security rules,” recommends Lukáš Štefanko. 


Advice for Pokémon GO-hungry users by ESET security experts:


  • download only from reputable sources 
  • check user reviews, focusing on negative comments (keep in mind that positive ones may be fabricated) 
  • read the app’s terms and conditions, focus on what permissions they require
  • use a quality mobile security solution to have all your apps scanned

Read more in Lukáš Štefanko's article on WeLiveSecurity.com