COVID-19 vaccination drive in India has begun for everyone above 18 years though many are facing problems with registration due to a shortage in vaccines. Several platforms have also been set up that uses CoWIN API (official COVID-19 vaccine registration platform in India) to help users find available slots around their location. Now, a message is doing rounds on the internet that offers a simple solution to register for the COVID-19 vaccine by downloading a new app. The SMS is primarily reaching Android users through the Messages app, and in reality, it’s a link filled with malware. The malware was first spotted by researchers Lukas Stefano and MalwareHunterTeam last month. The development was shared by the researcher on Twitter.
According to Stefanko, the message that is targeted at Indian users carries a link with the text, “Registration for vaccine using COVID-19 app." It was reported that the fake message was mainly targeted at Android phone users, and iOS users are likely not receiving it. If a user installs the app, the fishy platform promises free registration. It also asks for permission to access Contacts and other personal info. Notably, the malware-filled app has a lite version, and it might be visible as a Vaccine Registration app. The app is found to have support for dual-SIM connectivity to allow the malware to propagate using the first available operator available on the device.
SMS worm impersonates Covid-19 vaccine free registrationAndroid SMS worm tries to spread via text messages as fake free registration for Covid-19 vaccine - targets India 🇮🇳It can spread itself via SMS to victim contacts with link to download this malware. https://t.co/EXAAGARqOP pic.twitter.com/HX957bPVu5
— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) April 29, 2021
Android users receiving such messages are advised to avoid or simply delete the SMS. In India, citizens above the age of 18 can only register for COVID-19 vaccine via the CoWIN website, Android app, and Aarogya Setu. Many companies and researchers have also set up their own websites to help users find available vaccine slots near their location, but they do not provide booking facility. Recently, CoWIN chief RS Sharma, in an interview with NDTV, said that opening APIs to other platforms do not pose risks as registration requires OTP that is only generated by the CoWIN platform.