Fake COVID-19 vaccine registration in SMS message circulation, to install malicious apps

A fake SMS message is in circulation that falsely claims to offer users an app to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in India. However, rather than providing a valid way to register for vaccination, the app aims to promote malware via SMS messages after it is installed on a mobile device. The malicious app was initially named COVID-19, although it later received an update that renamed it as the Vaccine Register. Attackers may also be able to convince users to install the app for large numbers of people experiencing problems when registering for the COVID-19 vaccine through the official COVIN portal.

Malware researcher Lucas Stefanco of cyberspace firm ESET owns Tweeted Regarding the SMS message that asks users to download the app to register for the COVID-19 vaccination. The message is targeted at Indian users and is designed in a way that, according to the researcher, implements ‘COVID-19 vaccine-free registration’.

The researcher said that the SMS message gives a link, which installs a worm app, which essentially spreads via SMS to victims in contact with the link to download the malware. The application also acquires unnecessary permissions that attackers can take advantage of to obtain user data.

Although the app was initially called COVID-19, it was Name changed Acquired a light mode to access the vaccine register and further devices over time. It is also found to have support for dual-SIM connectivity. This will allow the malware to propagate using the previously available operator available on the device.

It is highly recommended for users to avoid any SMS messages that contain links that ask them to download the application. It is also important to note that registrations for COVID-19 vaccines are currently being done only through the COWIN portal as well as the Arogya Setu and Umang apps.

However, there are third-party sites through which you can get information when a job slot is available. The government has also provided an option to search for its nearest COVID-19 vaccination center using the MyGov Corona helpdesk chatboat.

The government last week expanded the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country, introducing registration for people between 18 and 44 years old. Vaccine registrations were previously open to people 45 and older.


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Jagmeet Singh writes about consumer technology for Gadgets 360 based out of New Delhi. Jagmeet is a senior reporter for Gadgets 360, and has often written about apps, computer security, Internet services and telecommunications development. Jagmeet is available on Twitter @ JagmeetS13 or email [email protected] Please send in your leads and tips. more

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