"Update WhatsApp," a counterfeit version of the official WhatsApp messenger was downloaded by over one million people. Luckily it was only designed to generate ad revenue and not to hack user devices.

Android's open-source platform allows users to have greater flexibility to tailor the UI based on preference, in comparison to a unified experience found on iOS. The downside to the open source nature of Android, however, is it leaves the potential for hazardous and malicious applications disguised as familiar ones to be installed. This was the case when over one million people were deceived into downloading an app they believed was an update for the popular messaging service WhatsApp.

The app was called "Update WhatsApp" and donned an icon identical to the official one. The application has since been removed from the Google Play Store and is now named "Dual Whatsweb Update" with a different icon, but prior to the change, it's obvious the app was designed to impersonate WhatsApp to trick users into downloading. Once people realized the application was not legitimate, it was flagged as malicious.

Android owners have always had to be cautious of fake applications disguised as real ones in the Play Store, and based on the number of installs, "Update WhatsApp" is one of the most successful knock-offs.

A security researcher at anti-virus company Avast named Nikolaos Chrysaidos stated the counterfeit app was used to generate revenue through ads. He's found similar apps with the same aim like a fake Facebook Messenger said to be download almost ten million times.

Fortunately for users who installed this imitation WhatsApp, it was not designed with malicious intent and only to make money from advertising. However, hackers can implement similar tactics by spoofing authentic applications to steal user information or damage devices.

Google has been working to improve security within its app store to provide the same level of protection Apple does for iOS, but the openness of Android may prove difficult to stop frauds from slipping through the cracks.

Do you think the Google Play Store will be able to stop situations like this from happening in the future? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Via Motherboard