Useless WannaCry security apps prove you shouldn't download in a panic

You’ve probably heard of WannaCry - it’s a piece of ransomware that has infected medical computer systems, big business databases and many other platforms.

It’s not on your Android phone though – so don’t download any apps claiming to protect your handset from WannaCry.

Ransomware is essentially a computer virus that will deactivate your infected electronics until you pay the hackers money. Usually the hackers will ask for money to be transferred in Bitcoin and if you don’t pay in time the hackers may delete important information - scary stuff indeed.

But it’s - currently - nothing to worry about. At the time of writing there are no reported cases of ransomware getting onto the Android operating system.

Despite that, a quick search for WannaCry on the Google Play Store earlier this week would have shown you multiple apps claiming to protect your phone from the ransomware. 

These were all totally useless and, thankfully, a further check of the Play Store  today reveals almost all of the apps have now seem to have been removed by Google or taken down by the developers. But it won't be the last time we see dodgy devs looking to cash in on a moment of tech-fuelled panic.

Be careful here

Researcher Frenando Ruiz told security blogger Graham Cluley about a specific app called WannaCry Ransomware Protection. He said, "The only function in this app is a repacked scanner that can detect the presence of a few ad libraries.”

That’s wasn't a major risk according to Ruiz, but it’s also not an app you want to have downloaded to your phone as it may give you a fake warning message to try and trick users into pressing on display ads within the app.

It’s not certain all WannaCry apps on the Google Play Store were as dangerous, but considering the ransomware isn’t on the Android platform right now you have to question the motives.

So, what do you need to do to avoid falling prey to crooked app attacks? Be sure to take a look at the description properly if you're unsure about how legitimate an app is and it's always a great tip to fully inspect the reviews. 

Reviews on the Play Store can be faked, but if it's something dubious you're considering downloading it's likely someone else has fallen for it in the past and perhaps left a negative review to help out other browsers.

We’re all fish in a barrel when it comes to downloading these kind of apps. It’s all too easy to download one just to try and make sure we’re safe from security issues and then make ourselves even more vulnerable.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.