New threat wreaks havoc on Android, but iPhone owners can breathe a sigh of relief

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If you have a UK mobile number, chances are, you’ve received a number of fraudulent text messages about deliveries from couriers like DHL, Hermes, Post Office, and more in recent weeks. The widespread threat is so serious that all of the major UK networks, including EE, Vodafone and Three, have sent out alerts to customers urging them not to be fooled by the scam.

The most recent warning came from Three with the provider saying: “We are aware that a significant number of people across the UK have been targeted with an SMS message. This fraudulent attack has affected all network operators, and as an industry, we are advising customers to be vigilant and careful about clicking on any links received in an SMS.”

Most of these texts claim to be from courier firms with the message suggesting that the user has a parcel due to be delivered with a link offering help on how to track it. With so many of us choosing to shop online due to the ongoing health crisis it’s not hard to see why so many people are tempted to follow the on-screen instructions.

However, it’s all fake and once the user is fooled the attack begins to take place behind the scenes with the phone getting filled with a nasty malware called FluBot. This horrible software allows cyber thieves to steal personal data and can even leave online banking credentials exposed which could end up costing the owner some serious money.

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So why is this attack hurting Android users, while iPhone fans remain unscathed?

Well, that’s all to do with the open nature of Android. The fact you can install pretty much anything on these devices is one of the reasons many choose them over Apple’s fully locked down smartphones.

iPhone owners can only download and install files directly from the App Store, but that’s not the case with Android.

One of the main ways users can install apps and services is using a filetype known as an APK, which works like those .exe or .dmg installation files you’ll find on Windows and Mac, respectively. Like those desktop operating systems, Android users can download those files straight from the web.

And it’s exactly this that’s putting owners at risk in this latest attack as the FluBot virus is sent to phones via a hidden APK. So, clicking on the link in the text message – to find out what DHL is supposedly going to deliver to your house – loads a blank website that begins to download the APK in the background. For iPhone owners, this process is blocked… so the website appears blank and nothing happens.

While APK downloads can be a great way to download apps from other sources (Fornite was famously only available to download as an APK from developer Epic Games’ website following a dispute with Google and its Play Store) and offer customers more choice and competition, Android owners should proceed with caution. Previous research from the Android security team found that the chances of installing harmful apps when shopping outside of the Google Play Store increased by 10 times. Ouch.

If you own an Android phone and think you have clicked on the link sent around by text, it’s vital to act fast with the National Cyber Security Centre is offering this advice.

• You must take the following steps to clean your device, as your passwords and online accounts are now at risk from hackers.

• Do not enter your password, or log into any accounts until you have followed the below steps.

• To clean your device, you should: Perform a factory reset as soon as possible. The process for doing this will vary based on the device manufacturer and guidance can be found here. Note that if you don’t have backups enabled, you will lose data.

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