Meta sues fake WhatsApp Android app devs for stealing 1M accounts

WhatsApp’s owner Meta sued three companies for developing an unofficial WhatsApp Android app that allowed developers to steal over one million WhatsApp accounts earlier this year.

Meta’s complaint alleges that defendants doing business as HeyMods, Highlight Mobi, and HeyWhatsApp, coaxed over a million WhatsApp users into “self-compromising their accounts as part of an account takeover attack.”

Three entities, one registered in mainland China, one in Hong Kong, and one in Taiwan, distributed “unofficial” WhatsApp versions through their website, Google Play Store, and other outlets.

“The malicious applications contained malware and, once installed, were designed to collect the victims’ account authentication information in order to take over the victims’ WhatsApp accounts for unauthorized use, including sending commercial spam messages,” read Meta’s complaint.

According to the complaint, attack victims were prompted to enter their WhatsApp credentials and authenticate their WhatsApp access on malicious apps, providing developers of the fake apps with their credentials.

“Defendants also programmed the malicious applications to send the victim’s access information to computers controlled by defendant,” the complaint said.

The data developers of the fake WhatsApp Android application collected was used to send “thousands of spam messages” via WhatsApp. The alleged scam lasted from May 2022 until at least July 2022.

Spam messages directed users to various promoted websites. Some of the websites encouraged victims to take up gambling. Mainly users in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore were targeted.

Meta claims the company has informed the defendants and Google that some apps on its Play Store contained malware used to carry out account takeover attacks.

While developers behind the apps did not respond to Meta, they announced on Telegram that they would no longer update the ‘unofficial’ WhatsApp apps.

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