Recently, the Iranian government released an app that claims to detect the new coronavirus. Interestingly, the app was officially removed from the Google play store shortly after its release. However, it had a massive 4 million downloads before the removal.
According to reports, the alleged COVID-19 detection app is called AC19. The Iranian government released the app last week and asked the Iranian people to install it in a text message. The aim of this app is to reduce pressure on hospitals. However, some users believe that the app is spam from the Iranian government. They believe that the government wants to monitor people with their personal data.
At present, Google did not give any explanation for removing the app from the Play Store. However, there are reports that the application has been taken down because it was misleading. The general belief is that the new coronavirus can not be detected by an app.
Coronavirus detection app does not show any malicious behavior
To verify the allegations, Lukas Stefanko, an Android malware researcher at ESET (Leifeng.com (public account: Leifeng.com): a well-known computer security software company) conducted malicious or spyware behavior review of the app. However, from the analysis of the application’s APK, it turns out that the app is not a malicious Trojan or spyware.
Lukas Stefanko states:
AC19 does not contain any suspicious behavior, and like other regular Android applications, this application has the right to request access to location data. In addition, as a health-related application, the request (possibly pointing to a mobile number registration) is not misplaced.
The Iranian government did not directly develop AC19. It outsourced the project to Smart Land Strategy. AC19 is not its first program it is developing for the Iranian government. Prior to this, Smart Land Strategy has two telegram clones – Gold Telegram and HotGram. However, user reports of both programs claim that they are malicious. In response, Smart Land Strategy dumped the pot to the Iranian government, claiming that the applications were developed under the guidance of the Iranian intelligence service.
Even though AC19 is currently proven to be “clean”, in terms of Smart Land Strategy’s previous records, many Iranian users believe that this is a trick by the government. According to a tweet from Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, MJ Azari Jahromi, more than 4 million Iranian users have installed AC19. In addition, the app is continuously being uploaded to remote backends of Iranian government agencies. Even though AC19 is no more on PlayStore, the application can also be installed through a proprietary website.