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Researchers: Fake Netflix app spreads malware on Android devices

(Image courtesy Check Point Research, Graphic by The Desk)

Researchers say an app distributed through the Google Play Store that purported to give people greater access to Netflix movies and TV shows was actually a computer virus in disguise.

In a blog post published on Wednesday, security analysts with Check Point Research said the “FlixOnline” Android app gave hackers the ability to take over a person’s WhatsApp account once it was installed on a device.

The app enticed potential victims by claiming that it could give users two months of a premium Netflix account for free, which it said was being offered due to the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic.

“Instead of allowing the mobile user to view Netflix content, the application is actually designed to monitor the user’s WhatsApp notifications, and to send automatic replies to the user’s incoming messages using content that it receives from a remote command and control (C&C) server,” researchers said.

Despite using the Netflix logo, the app has no apparent connection to the streaming service, and doesn’t appear to deliver on any of the promises it makes.

Check Point Research said FlixOnline was apparently downloaded more than 500 times while it was available in the Google Play Store, the main marketplace used by Android phone and tablet users to download software to their devices.

Google removed the app from the Play Store after being notified about its malware, Check Point Research said.

Researchers say anyone who downloaded the FlixOnline app should immediately remove it from their devices, and affected users who once installed the app should warn their contacts not to open any unsolicited files or links sent through WhatsApp.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).