Mobile game sensation Flappy Bird has officially migrated away from app stores, but has left behind some poisonous droppings.
According to security firm Sophos, a number of malware-laden Flappy Bird clones are being downloaded from unofficial Android markets. But instead of providing users with the game, they instead insert malicious software onto unsuspecting users' devices.
"Like writers, musicians and artists whose popularity surges when they die, Flappy Bird enjoyed a bigger-than-ever viral marketing boost upon its demise," Sophos's Paul Ducklin wrote in a blog post.
Developer Dong Nguyen released the pixelated game in 2013, but it didn't grab the spotlight until last month, becoming the number one free app in the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play store. But over the weekend, Nguyen removed Flappy Bird, simply announcing via Twitter that "I cannot take this anymore."
He denied reports that his decision was related to legal issues or that he sold the title to someone else. "I just cannot keep it anymore," he tweeted.
As a result, malware developers are trying to take advantage of mobile users' desire for the game, as well as their naiveté when it comes to questionable app downloads. One imposter app, according to Sophos, pretends to be a trial version of the game. When it "expires," users get a text message to reactivate it. Ducklin said those who receive a notification about SMS-based charges should uninstall the app immediately.
"Don't get sucked into this sort of trick, even if you missed out on Flappy Bird when it was alive and you are determined to find out what the fuss was about," Ducklin wrote.
And steer clear of eBay listings for "rare" Flappy Bird-equipped smartphones, unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars.