Fighting the rising tide of rogue apps

Mobile apps

Mobile apps

We’re battling a swell of rogue apps, and companies and consumers alike are struggling to keep their heads above water as these applications quickly become the tool of choice for fraudsters. According to our recent fraud data, rogue apps now make up 39 percent of global fraud attacks, growing at a rate of 50 percent per quarter.

Rogue apps attempt to impersonate a brand’s application with the intent of committing financial fraud. They have the ability to wreak havoc on consumers and organizations alike, with financial institutions being a particular target.

They often masquerade as major banks, for instance, and are used in a number of ways to deliver brutal ransomware attacks. For example, they can dupe unsuspecting customers into handing fraudsters their personal data — including bank details or even money.

They also often contain malware that exploits smartphones lacking adequate protection. Startlingly, they can even be used to spy on victims.

In short, the tide is rising, and companies must put defences in order before they’re flooded with angry customer complaints.

Mutinous customers and shipwrecked reputations

The damage caused to customers from rogue apps is clear. But the impact on businesses is often just as great, with long-term factors such as reputation and consumer trust on the line.

Organizations that fail to deal with rogue apps risk alienating customers. Perhaps it’s unfair, but many people that are duped by rogue apps hold the impersonated organization responsible — not the cybercriminals behind the attack.

This means organizations are under the microscope, with disgruntled customers likely to jump ship, and potential customers likely to take their business elsewhere.

With these threats in mind, there are a few proactive steps businesses can take to guard against rogue apps, and stem their rising tide.

Acting as a lifeguard

Companies should be acting as lifeguards when it comes to rogue apps — not only protecting their customers, but using education to ensure safety. Customers and employees need to know the warning signs of a rogue app, and how to avoid falling victim to one.

Once you know what to look for, some of these signs are obvious. Rogue apps are typically poorly programmed and poorly formatted, lacking the professionalism you’d expect from a genuine app, with poor spelling and grammar often tell-tale clues. They will typically have few-to-zero user reviews, and any they do receive will — naturally — be far from glowing.

Companies should also be monitoring for danger and deploying rescue services when rogue apps do appear. Unfortunately, none of the 100+ app stores in existence are free of rogue apps altogether. Even established stores like the Google Play Store have witnessed rogue app scams affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

As such, businesses of all sizes must implement safeguarding processes. Chief among these is scanning stores for rogue apps and acting fast to have them taken down when they’re spotted. However, scanning every single app store for every second of every day would be both extremely time consuming and far too demanding.

Charting a course through choppy waters

Combatting rogue apps may seem like a daunting task, but there are clear steps companies can take to ease the burden.

‘Brand monitoring’ services that have the capability to constantly monitor URLs, app stores and social media platforms to identify rogue apps are essential for any company looking to take fraud seriously.

They know the patterns and warning signs of past fraud instances and apply these to present-day scenarios. This enables brands to respond rapidly to take down rogue apps before they gain traction and affect too many customers, stopping potentially devastating attacks in their tracks.

Businesses must be proactive in this approach and take the necessary steps to prevent rogue apps before they impact both their customers and their bottom line.

If they don’t, they’ll continue to leave their customers exposed to the wave of fraudsters making use of this attack vector. With rogue apps increasing in number and effectiveness by the day, and reputational damage on the line, it’s crucial that companies act fast.

Image Credit: logolord / Shutterstock

Armen Najarian is chief identity officer at fraud prevention specialist Outseer.

Author: Martha Meyer