Don’t download coronavirus (COVID-19) apps: Here’s why

Chris Burns - Mar 16, 2020, 2:07 pm CDT
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Don’t download coronavirus (COVID-19) apps: Here’s why

If you’re having COVID-19 problems, I’ve got news for you, son, there are plenty of proven sources and an app ain’t one. A perfect example of a situation appeared today showing why apps should not be downloaded in a panic. The app was called COVID19Tracker, or Covid Lock, and it locked smartphone users’ phones, demanding a ransom. This app went so far as to display a countdown and assurances that the user was being tracked via GPS – just to make extra sure the user, already in a panic over our current global pandemic, was sent into a frenzy.

Users downloaded the app, also called “CovidLock” from a website (coronavirusapp dot site). The “Coronavirus Tracker” suggested it’d be able to show the user a real-time outbreak map “in your street, city, and state”. The app never really tracked anything but the user downloading the app.

The user was told that they’d be able to “unlock” the app if they sent $100 USD-worth of Bitcoin to a Bitcoin wallet address. The app suggested that “your contacts, your pictures and videos, all social media accounts will be leaked [and] the phone memory will be completely erased.”

Lucky for the select few that downloaded the app, DomainTools security researchers reverse-engineered the app and published a decryption key to allow the app to be unlocked. But for some, the damage was already done.

What’s better than an app?

The World Health Organization is tracking COVID-19 globally. The ARCGIS live map shows the latest updates with information reported to and by WHO.

There’s a NYTimes USA map of reported COVID-19 cases. The CDC in the USA has a wide range of up-to-date information on the outbreak. At SlashGear we’re tracking the situation here safely at home at our own desks with our families, self-quarantined as we’re able.


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