Popular QR code scanner app infected with malware
QR code scanner apps experienced a massive surge in downloads last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while most iPhone users (and some Android devotees) have managed to get by simply using their native camera app, millions of Android users turned to third-party apps to check in to restaurants, shops, hairdressers and other premises.
Barcode Scanner was one of the more QR code popular scanner apps on the Google Play Store with over 10 million downloads. However, those who have installed the app are being strongly encouraged to delete it after it was unceremoniously pulled from the store due to recent malware reports.
Affected users began noticing changes to their phone’s behaviour after an update released on December 4, 2020. While ads are perfectly legal (and common) on free apps, it was discovered that the app’s developers had knowingly added malicious code which caused a series of unrelenting ads to pop-up on the user’s device.
It’s unknown how long the code had been there, perhaps, as Malwarebytes put it, ‘lying dormant’ for years. It’s possible the developers were waiting for the app to peak in popularity before unleashing their Trojan-style ad onslaught to users. While Google acted quickly, pulling Barcode Scanner from the Play Store as soon as the tech giant became aware of the malicious update, those who have downloaded it will need to manually uninstall it in order to rid their device of the malware.
It’s a timely reminder for all smartphone users to remain vigilant when downloading and updating apps and games (particularly those which are ad-supported) from app stores. As the Barcode Scanner saga proved, even seemingly innocuous programs with tens of millions of downloads aren’t necessarily safe. Another important step to keeping yourself (and your data) protected and malware-free is to ensure your smartphone’s operating system is updated to the latest version.