Google Play Store: Fake camera apps that steal your photos discovered with millions of downloads

scam apps

Cameras are one of the major features on all smartphones. We’ve seen a battle recently between all the major smartphone manufacturers, all hoping to have their handsets crowned the best phone for photographers. New hardware features like multi-lens setups and software solutions like AI-assisted camera apps now allow us to capture magic moments better than we could ever have imagined.

As well as giving us the tools we need to document our lives, however, cameras can offer a new vulnerability for hackers to exploit. If we don’t take the right precautions the very photos we take could end up in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, it looks like this could already be the case for millions of Android users.

Millions of people have downloaded malicious camera apps that send their photos to third-party servers

In total, security researchers Trend Micro discovered 29 fake camera apps in the Google Play Store. These apps offered a range of photography linked features from taking photos to applying edits and filters.

The apps in question had no functionality at all. Rather than capturing images or applying edits, they’d simply send the photo in question off to a third-party server before showing an error message on the victim’s device. Some cases included the user being shown ads and even pornographic images. Furthermore, some of the apps, once installed, would try to hide themselves in order to make it as hard as possible for users to remove them from their devices.

malicious camera apps steal photos google play store
Some incidents showed pornographic images

The full list of the fake camera apps discovered by Trend Micro is:

  • Art Editor
  • Art Effect
  • Art Effect
  • Art Effects for Photo
  • Art Filter
  • Art Filter Photo
  • Art Filter Photo Editor
  • Art Filter Photo Effcts
  • ArtFlipPhotoEditing
  • Artistic effect Filter
  • Awesome Cartoon Art
  • Beauty Camera
  • Cartoon Art Photo
  • Cartoon Art Photo
  • Cartoon Art Photo Filter
  • Cartoon Effect
  • Cartoon Photo Filter
  • Emoji Camera
  • Fill Art Photo Editor
  • Horizon Beauty Camera
  • Magic Art Filter Photo Editor
  • Photo Art Effect
  • Photo Editor
  • Pixture
  • Prizma Photo Effect
  • Pro Camera Beauty
  • Selfie Camera Pro
  • Super Camera
  • Wallpapers HD

If you have any of these apps on your Android device, you should delete them immediately.

The good news is that since Trend Micro reported the apps to Google the internet giant has removed them from the Play Store. The bad news is that as they made it passed Google Play Protect and were able to rack up millions of downloads before being detected there is nothing to say that there aren’t more fake and malicious apps on the Google Play Store right now.

fake apps fake reviews google play store

This means that you need to be extra vigilant when you’re downloading apps from the Google Play Store. You should always check the app developer before hitting download and it is also very important to check user reviews too. Trend Micro suggests looking out for a “U” pattern, which will show if an app has a high number of fake 5-star reviews. The large number of five-star reviews together with a large number of negative reviews, following genuine downloads, will look like the letter U written on its side.

For more information on staying safe while downloading apps from the Google Play Store, check out our tutorial below.

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