flappy bird

Beware Flappy Bird Knock Offs, 80% of Them Contain Malware

June 24, 2014 - Written By Ray Greer


Replacing any type of an addiction can be just as dangerous as the original addiction. Same goes for the widely popular Flappy Birds app. Thanks to a recent report from McAfee, a well known online security provider, we now know that 80% of Flappy Bird knock-offs come complete with malware.

Flappy Bird was released on Android back in January of this year, and it grew rapidly. The game became well known for being highly addictive even though it was a very low quality and simple game-well simple in the sense of graphics and point, not in winning. The game entailed a little bird that couldn’t fly very well and need to get through some Mario Bros. style pipes. One of the reasons for the apps fast growth and popularity was due to videos on Vine and YouTube that showed the frustrations of people trying to get as far as possible in the game. Flappy Birds grew so fast, that creator Dong Nguyen removed the game from the PlayStore.

Nguyen claimed pulling the app was due to the addictiveness and popularity of the game. Nguyen wasn’t ready for the amount of spotlight he would get from the app. However that’s when more problems arose for the developer and the games users. Instead of being taken out of the spotlight and the game being forgotten, the games popularity rose. Flappy Birds almost became a rare and much sought after app. This is when other developers saw an opportunity to cash in on the success and disappearance of Flappy Birds.

Countless knock offs of Flappy Birds popped up everywhere. All of them kept the basic idea of the game, tap the screen and keep an object floating through obstacles. Though the knock-offs used different objects floating and different obstacles to get through. While Nguyen was regretting the release of the game, users were searching for alternatives and stumbled upon these knock offs. What users didn’t know at the time, was that the majority of these knock offs contained malware. Most of which were found on Android due to the Open Source software. One example of such malware makes calls without any sort of permissions, while under the same circumstances another would send text messages.

While ghost texts and calls are a mild inconvenience for some, it was the destination of these calls and texts that caused the biggest issue. The calls being made went to “premium numbers” that would charge the customer more for making that call. The texts as well are sent to numbers that charge a premium fee for each text sent. One of the other biggest threats is location data. Some versions of the malware would send a users location data, which comes in handy for credit card scams. Brian Kenyon, chief technical strategist for McAfee said, “You can’t sell a stolen credit card number from California to a guy in Florida, because if he buys gas with it and then an hour later the real owner buys groceries in California, the security system kicks in. If stolen cards go only to people in a nearby ZIP code, it can take much longer for anyone to realize there’s a problem. It increases their worth on the black market.”

Nguyen has no control over anything that may happen with third party apps. However, if the app stayed on the market, the issues may not have affected and continue to affect as many people. Nguyen also has said that he will soon be putting the app back on the PlayStore, which may slow down the downloads of the knock offs. Though for some it may be too late.