For those who are not familiar, Flappy Bird was a mobile game that quickly bolted to the top of the charts in a very impressive manner for a low budget, bare-bones indie game. Flappy Bird created a viral internet sensation, fan-based videos began appearing and just as quickly as it grew, the game was gone. Removed from the market place by its creator, who is unknown to many, Hanoi-based indie developer Dong Nguyen.
The game contained graphics very similar to those in Mario Bros. franchise, specifically the green plumping pipes. This caused some negative feedback within the gaming community that the developer had stolen proprietary material. The sheer growth of the game in such a short time and his instant celebrity status, might also have been too much for him to handle. As a result, on February 8th, the author announced via Twitter that he would be removing the game indefinitely.
It is almost unbelievable that he would decide to remove it, as it was reported to have been bringing up to $50,000 per month in ad revenue. The same day it was pulled, iPhones with Flappy Bird installed sold for thousands of dollars on various eBay auctions to users who had not downloaded a copy in time. It felt like a bird fever Twilight Zone episode.
With the removal of the game from the mobile marketplace, malware creators began flooding third party Android app marketplaces with Flappy Bird clones. Reported here by security firm Sophos, many apps titled “Flappy Bird” either contained malware or as Trend Micro reported, would force the device to send text messages to premium billed phone numbers in stealth while the user played . Some apps attempted to hide notifications of received text messages as it sent off text messages from the users’ device. Although a good amount of users would be alarmed by the suspicious app, many unsuspecting users could have taken the plunge. Unlike the original version of Flappy Bird, the malware versions would solicit more permissions on the device, causing the user to give up access to the user’s text messages, web bookmarks and other important information.
We have seen cyber-criminals take advantage of these popular games with great stride lately. Candy Crush, Angry Birds Space, Temple Run 2 and Bad Piggies are some of many malware clones to have hit the marketplace. It alerts us that we need to be informed on how we verify the authenticity and safety of apps we download onto our devices. Being familiar with the original developers of poplar apps can be very helpful. Considering that malware creators will target popular apps and games, knowing who the original developers are will help you steer clear of the fakes. Additionally, always verify public ratings and how many reviews have been posted, if the game is very popular, there should be a large amount of user feedback posted on the marketplace app page. Doing online research and finding posted reviews on websites is also good to keep you safe. And last but not least, users should know that if the original creator has pulled the plug on any given app, all others claiming to offer the same app should never be trusted and should be avoided instead.