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NSW Police warns of new FluBot malware scam phishing texts

NSW Police posted a warning on their official Facebook page about the new FluBot phishing texts that have been making the rounds, sending malware links that enable download and installation of malicious software on to devices.

user iconReporter
Tue, 01 Feb 2022
NSW Police warns of new FluBot malware scam phishing texts
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According to Scamwatch, many Australians have been receiving scam text messages about missed calls, voicemails, deliveries and photo uploads since August 2021.

The text messages ask recipients to tap on a link to download or access something. Doing so will download a specific type of malware to your device. These are “FluBot” text messages.

Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and it provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

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What is FluBot?
FluBot is malicious software (malware) that sends text messages to both Androids and iPhones.

There are a large number of different types of FluBot text messages and scammers are updating these all the time. Scamwatch strongly recommends to never click on the links in these messages. It is best to delete these immediately.

Android phones are more at risk. The content of the text messages varies but these all contain a link containing five to nine random numbers. These will often ask you to download an app to track or organise a time for a delivery, hear a voicemail message, or view photos that have been uploaded.

It is important to note that there is no delivery, voicemail, or photos uploaded and the app is actually malware called FluBot.

If you have an Android device, typically the application downloaded is called Voicemail71.apk, Update42.apk’ or DHL34.apk. This application is malware.

The application may be able to:

  • Read your text messages.
  • Send text messages from your phone.
  • Make phone calls from your number.
  • Access your contacts.

Installing the software is likely to give scammers access to your passwords and accounts. They may be able to use this information to steal your money or personal information.

It will also ask other infected Australian phones to send FluBot messages to the numbers it steals from your phone, continuing and expanding the scam.

So, if a user called the person that sent you the message, it would be another victim of the scam whose device was infected.

Apple devices cannot be infected with FluBot but will likely be infected with other malware if you click on these links.

How does FluBot work?

FluBot text messages are sent with a link which almost always contains a series of five to nine random letters and numbers at the end. Here's a list of what typically occurs:

  • Phone owner gets a text message containing a php link.
  • Clicks link and is invited to install software.
  • Phone becomes infected with malware.
  • Infected phone's contacts are added to a central list of FluBot text messages.
  • FluBot can steal banking, contact and personal info from infected device.

If a user clicks or taps on the link, it will usually go to a screen where you will be asked to download an app for a purpose that relates to the text message.

For example, if the text message was about a delivery, the screen will likely show courier branding and a button or link which directs to downloading an app to track the progress of the “delivery”.

Clicking the link may lead to a page which states that a device has already been infected with FluBot and that security updates need to be installed to remove it.

This is a tactic by the scammers, designed to scare users into clicking the install button. Clicking this infects your device with the FluBot malware. These pages will often say that a window may appear preventing the installation, and that you should enable the installation via your device's settings. This is another trick to move you through the process and download the malware to your device.

How to avoid your device from being infected

  • If you receive a message you suspect may be a scam, delete it immediately.
  • Do not click on links in text messages that contain a link with a series of random numbers and letters.
  • Do not call back the individual who sent the text. It’s unlikely that they are a scammer or criminal. Scammers can disguise their caller ID as legitimate numbers to carry out these scams. This is also known as spoofing.

Have you downloaded the FluBot malware?
Act immediately. If you’ve already clicked the link to download the application, your passwords are at risk from hackers.

  • Don't enter any passwords or log into any accounts until you have cleaned your device. If you need to check your online banking, use a different device.
  • Clean your device using the steps below to remove the malicious software.
  • Change your passwords and secure your information.
  • Contact your bank and ensure your accounts are secure.
  • If you have logged in to any accounts or apps using a password since downloading the app, you need to change your passwords.
  • If you have used the same passwords for any other accounts, you also need to change those passwords.

Cleaning your device
Remove the malicious software from your Android device using these steps:

  • Contact an IT professional.
  • Download official Android anti-virus software through the Google Play store.
  • Perform a factory reset of the device.
  • Use the Erase all content and settings or Factory reset features.
  • Don't restore from any backups created after you downloaded the app.
  • Note: Performing the reset of your device will delete all of your data, including photos.

Learn more about FluBot scams and other relevant phone scams on the Scamwatch website.

[Related: Akamai’s latest report reveals the persistence of online piracy]

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