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Scam iOS apps use fitness to steal from users

App Store removes fitness trackers that steal from users, but there may be more to come.

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Multiple apps posing as fitness-tracking tools were caught misusing Apple’s Touch ID feature to steal money from iOS users. The dodgy payment mechanism used by the apps is swift and unexpected, activated while victims are scanning their fingerprint seemingly for fitness-tracking purposes, says ESET Southern Africa.

There are many apps that promise to assist users on the way to a healthier lifestyle. The apps until recently available in the Apple App Store under the names “Fitness Balance app” and “Calories Tracker app” might have seemed to do just that – they could calculate the BMI, track the daily calorie intake, or remind users to drink more water. However, these services came with an unexpectedly hefty price tag, according to Reddit users.

After a user fires up any of the abovementioned apps for the first time, the apps request a fingerprint scan to “view their personalized calorie tracker and diet recommendations” (Figure 1). Only moments after the user complies with the request and places his/her finger on the fingerprint scanner, the apps display a popup showing a dodgy payment amounting to 99.99, 119.99 USD or 139.99 EUR (Figure 2).

This popup is only visible for about a second, however, if the user has a credit or debit card directly connected to his/her Apple account, the transaction is considered verified and money is wired to the operator behind these scams.

Based on the user interface and functionality, both apps are most likely created by the same developer. Users have also posted videos of “Fitness Balance app” and “Calories Tracker app” on Reddit.

Figure 1 – Scam apps in Apple’s App Store require users to scan their fingers for fitness tracking (Image source: Reddit)

Figure 2 – Dodgy payment popping up in “Fitness Balance app” and “Calories Tracker app” (Image source: Reddit)

If users refuse to scan their finger in “Fitness Balance app”, another popup is displayed, prompting them to tap a “Continue” button to be able to use the app. If they comply, the app tries the repeat the dodgy payment procedure again.

Despite its malicious nature, the “Fitness Balance app” received multiple 5-star ratings, had an average rating of 4.3 stars and received at least 18 mostly positive user reviews. Posting fake reviews is a well-known technique used by scammers to improve the reputation of their apps.

Victims already reported both of these apps to Apple, which led to their removal from the market. Users even tried to directly contact the developer of “Fitness Balance app”, but only received a generic response promising to fix the reported “issues” in the upcoming version 1.1

 

What can users do to avoid similar threats?

As Apple doesn’t allow security products in its App Store, users need to rely on the security measures implemented by Apple.

On top of that, ESET advises users to always read reviews by other users.  As positive feedback is easily faked, negative reviews are more likely to reveal the true nature of the app.

iPhone X users can also activate an additional feature called “Double Click to Pay”, which requires them to double-click the side button (Figure 4) to verify a payment.

Those who already fell victim to this scam can also try to claim a refund from the Apple App Store

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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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