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Fake ‘Flappy Bird’ Android apps capitalize on demise of popular game

Attackers are looking to capitalize on the demise of Flappy Bird – a mobile game that became wildly popular overnight, but was quickly taken down from official markets by its creator – by offering up premium SMS-sending doppelgangers for Android devices.

One particular fake Flappy Bird app – which is available on third-party Android stores – appears similar to the original and, at first glance, could fool a person, according to a Tuesday blog post by Paul Ducklin, head of technology, Asia Pacific at Sophos. He said the differences are apparent when comparing the permissions for both apps.

“The genuine application asks for network access (it serves ads), but not much more,” Ducklin wrote. “But the imposter wants as much as it can get, notably including the right to send SMSes for you.”

Ducklin explained that the original Flappy Bird app was only ever free to download and it earned money through in-game advertising, while the fake Flappy Bird app claims it is an expired trial version and asks players to send out an SMS in order to be reactivated.

“That's a premium-rate SMS account, and you do get a warning,” Ducklin wrote. “If you decide not to send the SMS and not to use the app, it offers to exit, as you might expect. But it doesn't exit at all.”

Ducklin suggested deleting any unofficial versions of Flappy Bird and reminded that an official version of the popular game is no longer available. Players are taking a huge risk downloading apps from untrustworthy markets, he added.

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