Seen the Tapsnake virus warning on your Android? Here’s what you need to know

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

Android scareware warningAre you worried your smartphone might be infected by the Tapsnake Android virus?

Take a deep breath and don’t panic.

Security researchers at Symantec have discovered a series of mobile phone adverts, which attempt to scare users into believing their device has been infected by a Trojan horse called MobileOS/Tapsnake.

The messages, which some users might mistake for a genuine security warning, read:

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ANDROID VIRUS DETECTED

A site you recently visited has infected your phone with (Trojan: MobileOS/Tapsnake)

Press OK to remove the threat.

Tapsnake warning

As regular cynical readers of the site have probably already guessed, your smartphone isn’t really infected and this is a ruse to trick you into installing a fake anti-virus (also known as scareware) app.

Fake anti-virus download

Anyone duped into installing the bogus security software runs the risk of compromising their smartphone.

It’s not uncommon to see fake anti-virus scams spread on Windows and Mac, and their Android-based equivalents will typically be monetised by signing you up for premium rate phone services, messing with your browser to earn affiliate cash, or infesting your device with intrusive advertising pop-ups.

It’s worth noting that what makes the fake virus warning message a little more believable is that there really was a piece of Android spyware called Tapsnake, which was first spotted in 2010.

If you made the mistake of installing the real Tapsnake app you would be greeted by a retro “Snake” game, but your location would also be secretly shared with someone who wanted to spy on you.

Handy for jealous partners and stalkers, I guess..

There can be little doubt now that all Android users should seriously consider running an anti-virus program on their smartphones. The only thing to be careful about is that it comes from a legitimate vendor, rather than one of these scareware scam artists.

Further reading: “Android Tapsnake Mobile Scareware: Ads Push Antivirus”, Symantec.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

72 comments on “Seen the Tapsnake virus warning on your Android? Here’s what you need to know”

  1. Crystal

    Oh i am so glad i read this. i was just hit by this a few
    moments ago. i am so glad i didn't download
    anything!!

    1. choochoojake · in reply to Crystal

      Me too it came up on a youtube video so iy got me even more mad so i had to restart the video and these tapsnake things have timers what happens at 0 i am worried

    2. Miku · in reply to Crystal

      I JUST got it on my kindle I don't know if I'm SAAFFE! O.o panic alert!!

      1. berg · in reply to Miku

        The same thing happened to me when I tried to watch Twins on you tube, on my kindle. It said that I had a tapsnake virus and that I need to open my app store and download some anti virus app. I'm still pretty shaken up.

        1. Young · in reply to berg

          I deleted it right after, and nothing has come up. Do you think it will be okay?

        2. alexis rose · in reply to berg

          me to i freaked and half downloaded the app I so hope I did not get the virus

    3. CatWhisker Wolff · in reply to Crystal

      Me too, I downloaded an app, but I removed it as soon as I saw it comprises my phone. I am now panicking! What will it do? What do I do the get rid of it completely? ( It was called Armour For Android, if that helps.)

      1. Devin ball · in reply to CatWhisker Wolff

        The app I downloaded was also armor for android and all it did was force close!

    4. Carmen Therien · in reply to Crystal

      I'm glad I had a protector on my android as I did download it but my system wouldn't allow it. I messaged my cousin and he told me it's not legit. Man I got duped on my computer with these kind of messages . They make it seem so real and important and scare you into thinking you must fix this or your computer will crash that you do download it and then can't remove it and then my computer did crash as other viruses got on it and now my hard drive is gone. I'm so glad my cousin knows about this stuff and has been able to help me. I almost got caught again . Thank goodness for my protection I have on my Samsung as I did start to download it and system rejected it. So be aware. I thought I learned my lesson but I was never, never again! I will make sure to research it before hand. BE AWARE!

    5. Justin Villa · in reply to Crystal

      I downloaded it but then ran an anti virus app on it before opening the file and then said it was unwanted so I deleted the file right away. Is my phone still safe? I didnt get a popup of the retro snake game.

    6. Isaac · in reply to Crystal

      I know how you feel i just got this warnig and decade to resarch it before i got Tapsnake doged a bullet there lol

    7. Aniyah · in reply to Crystal

      Wow, I was caught by one of these too. I am so glad I didn't press download. THANK GOD!!!

  2. mel

    What happens if you didn't read this first and
    clicked install? I went to my downloads and clicked delete but
    I'm not sure if that would've done
    anything.

    1. Daniel · in reply to mel

      I did this and to be on the safe side you could install an app to remove rooted apps like clean master. Or email the company, I did and got a reply quickly ensuring me I had my details removed

      1. Shelley · in reply to Daniel

        I have installed clean master and run that. Which company
        did you email as I downloaded but did not complete all the actions
        required. I scanned with AVG which prompted me to delete which I
        did. But not sure if my phone is safe?

      2. Joan Simmons · in reply to Daniel

        I stupidly installed the so called tapsnake free removal program and it cannot be removed no mattet what. I just. bought this straight talk phone about 48 hrs. Ago…should. I return it to the store or w..ho d.o I contact for help ?

        1. Randal Goldman · in reply to Joan Simmons

          Unfortunately i fell for this scam now my phone is "locked up" with someone saying i veiwed and stored child pornand zoophillia and demanding 300 dollars to unlock my phone

          1. My younger just got the same thing last night. Is there a way to remove it?

          2. Maria · in reply to Randal Goldman

            Omg same thing happened to me… I was so scared I hid and threw it away… I dun see no fbi looking for me… it was a fake… I threw away my dads present away for no reason… cri

  3. val

    I did not read this before I clicked download either, however I am experiencing this on a Nook rather than a phone. I clicked the arrow in the bottom left corner and it said the download was complete, and when i clicked on that, it said that to complete the action I had to use App Installer or Package Installer. I clicked App Installer and it said the application could not be installed on my device. Does this mean my Nook is safe?

    1. manamismapersinilinfamashion · in reply to val

      I just did the exact same thing on my nook. I didn't get any response though, I actually clicked download about five times. I can't find any app on my nook to delete it though. Does this mean I'm okay, or did I just download the tap snake thing. I'm really kind of scared, is it possible some creepy person be stalking me right now? Please, can somebody help me?

  4. Lorraine Carter

    THANK YOU!!! I had a suspicion that it was false but still afraid! I was getting ready to have my phone wiped clean.

  5. Thanks. I started to receive this on my tablet but
    suspected it was a fake warning and googled to see if anything was
    known about it. I would advise others if you get a trojan or virus
    warning google it for details.

  6. Laurie

    Just got this too, smelled a rat so Googled tapsnake and
    found this site. Bless you!

  7. Freddo

    Great, its not a virus. So how do i stop this message from popping up???!!

  8. 1SoCalGal

    I just received a new (used) ereader/tablet today. By all appearances the ereader is brand new, and still had all accessories sealed in their plastic bags, etc. I set up my ID and wifi…pushed on the browser icon, which brought up an 'ereadingsource dot com' site. I assumed it was the ereaders main book site, but before the link fully loaded, this tapsnake scam popped up. I *almost* downloaded it, thinking it was part of the set-up process, until I saw the countdown clock. I then tried to close it, but nothing happened. I tried to return to the home page, but was greeted with a pop-up vid of some naked chicks shaking their boobies & twerking. I tried to close the page, but it brought up a registration page for an apparent porn site. I immediately shut down the device, and reset it to factory settings; However, when I restarted it and opened the browser, I got the tapsnake re-direct again. I'm not too tech-savvy, and don't know how this trojan got into a link that is set up as an app already installed on the ereader.

  9. I got this message today so I turned on lookout and found no viruses

    1. Hi · in reply to jonathan wrege

      same i was like OMG but now I'm like, Omg I'm so dumb XD

  10. Leslie

    I just got this on my tablet and hit the download to clear virus. Never opened the downloads deleted them all after reading this. Will I be safe?

  11. I just got this today. I have Lookout and I downloaded Norton. I cant use Google browser because that stupid pop up comes up. What do I do?? Help

  12. Cathy Hunt

    So glad I was suspicious and searched tapsnake virus before I did anything and found your post. Thank you

  13. ramons

    thanks alot for everthing now finally i can sleep well..i was so worryed last weeks since i got that viruses warning i never knew if it's true or not i never knew what shall i do all this time. Lucky me i am a suspicious guy and i have never installed their fake antivirus

  14. Dany

    Thank you all for you great stories i am tired if hearing. Less talk and more work. How do we prevent it, whats the cause of the problem, does it only attack Android users, is an internal app causing it, will a format fix it. We need answers cause no antivirus is fixing anything. Hello people.

  15. jiimy

    Thank God that I didn't download

  16. Thankyou

    Thankyou so much the pop up just poped up and I came straight here and it really helped

  17. android

    Lol, i also install the apps recomemded to me by the site who is telling me my phone is infected and the result i cant view my album,
    They just want us to nstall their anti virus apps w/c is completely useless,,

  18. Trevor

    I had a strong gut feeling that this was a scam when I first spotted it whilst using the web on my Nexus 7 last weekend. Since I already have the Lookout anti-virus app installed on my device (from the Google Play Store, of course), I quickly swiped out of the web page that I was on (I did NOT do what the scam warning was asking me to do), loaded up Lookout, gave everything on my Nexus 7 a quick and thorough search through…and fortunately, Lookout quickly indicated that everything on my Nexus 7 was safe and completely protected. Panic over! :)

    Very happy and relieved that I instead decided to use my genuine anti-virus protection to remedy this awful scare in the end. Always better to be safe than sorry!

    Thank you so much for highlighting this for so many others in the same situation too. Very helpful of you! :)

  19. Caitlin

    Um, Hey I downloaded it and then found this site, so I went to my downloads to get rid of it and it isn't there. Does that mean I didn’t actually get it or is it meant to be hidden? Also does deleting it from the list get rid of it? (Sorry for sounding kinda dumb I’m not really good with technology)

    1. Shesha · in reply to Caitlin

      Okay, i downloaded this "Virus Cleaner" without searching it up before…Do you think I'm getting stalked? I force quitted it, and uninstalled it immediately, i don't think that helped, though. Is there anyone i can contact to figure out if its gone? I downloaded these two: MacKeeper, MegaBackup.
      Im so scared! Someone help me please!!!!! ):O

  20. Lima

    Unfortunately I clicked on the ok which triggered the time clock, but stopped before clicking on the download and instead went looking for answers and landed here.

    Have since uploaded the Lookout app as a precaution. Seems I have the all clear.

    Thanks.

  21. Josh

    I was browsing through on the Internet and also saw this tapsnake virus. I cant remember if i downloaded it or not as I panicked and didnt know what to do. I also think maybe my phone is weird as it gets hot and its a brand new galaxy. I just randomly thought I would research it more and ended up here. Could I please ask for assistance. It happened bout two weeks ago.

  22. Bob

    Enough of all this chatter…what is the solution on removing the pop-up

    1. Nico · in reply to Bob

      Just X out of the page and ignore it… DONT DOWNLOAD ANYTHING!!! And just leave it… Forget about it… It's ok as long as ya don't download what it tells ya to!… :)

  23. Nico

    So relieved I got a warning like that on my iOS iPad 3 after going on a website I usually visit, it apparently scanned my device and said there is a tapsnake attacking file snake. Something it didn't say anything about a Trojan and told me to download a anti virus iOS 9 point something and I tried to download it but it said ADRESS not valid so I ignored it, came off the site, deleted my history and searched up what a tapsnake is! I've never seen anything like this before! Haha but I'm so happy that it's all a scam and that my devise wouldn't let me download that I'm so lucky!… Phew!

  24. magdalena

    hi, just this message poited up pop-up on a really common web site, ut the removal program was called Windowss, I checked the firewall first, than checked the device by the avast, everything was ok, so I denied to install the remover.. hope, the Tapsnake is not there…

  25. cynthia

    Had this pop-up on my galaxy tablet that told me that it was about something with Trojan ditected a virus that I had to dowloaded so I cliked it to dowload but then it told me that the app was not available in the state that I live . So that means that im save ???? :) so that means I dont have any virus :/

  26. Sophie Taylor

    I installed it then checked on here I installed avg and it said I have the all clear have got it?

  27. Alan Weiner

    After declining the free download and removal software, I have noticed a small file which shows as a download.

  28. Lori

    How is this supposed to help without posting a solution to the problem?

    1. Trevor Holohan · in reply to Lori

      @ Lori – The solution to the problem is DO NOT download the scam. Just ignore everything that it tells you. As long as you swipe it away, your device is fine.

  29. Shawn

    I was having this problem on my Galaxy S4 and fixed it as follows:

    Open your web browser. Go to settings. Choose Content Settings. Choose Website Settings. Click on the web address that keeps popping up. Select Clear Stored Data. This ended the pop-ups for me.

  30. I got this to. The way I got rid of the popups and tapsnake is to open the browser on my Galaxy S4 Mini, select the windows icon(little blank rectangles in the top right corner of the browser) on the screen pinch the screen to the middle and all your open windows of visited websites will minimize and close the one that causing the popups by tapping on the – sign of the minimized website window. Your phone is not infected. It is the open website window containing the tapsnake popup that is causing the popups.
    Deleting and clearing browser history does not close the open browser windows but does prevent the popups from appearing until you visit the website again! Apparently when you browse from one website to another the previous website window you visited does not automatically close.

  31. Hello

    Hello I clicked download and it took me to this thing that told me to click install and I didn't click install do I have it?

  32. I started receiving this message and suspected it to be bogus cause I have never surfed any porn sites at the point they asked to have me download something I closed it out and went to Google play downloaded several av and found nothing on phone.however the last two apps I downloaded seemed to have a lot of adware MX player and bit torrent I deleted them both…no more problems.I am so tired of malicious people trying to scam others like that guy with the India accent claiming to be with Microsoft wanting me to set up an remote desktop so he can (fix) it.I told him (some countries cut your hands off for thievery) he hasn't called back.

  33. Dave

    Thank you for this site! The same message popped up on my Samsung Galaxy. On your advise, I just closed that window and it hasn't popped up since.

  34. Keith
  35. Chris

    Hah, I just got the message… I opened it, but it said it wasn't available in Texas, so I went and looked on Google and came here. After reading this I closed the window. I guess even viruses don't mess with Texas. ^^

  36. Steven

    Sorry if you downloaded without checking it out first. However, there are remedies. There are many good backup apps, some free some not. If you have one you can just restore just like on all other computers.I have an HTC phone which comes with Backup and restore apps as well as sync manager.

    Check into your brand's options. You might get lucky.

  37. Mary

    Got this virus alert on my phone a minute ago and was going to down load the app but decided to Google it first. So glad I did! Thanks for the info. You've saved my phone from a fate worse than death!

    1. djitddvv · in reply to Mary

      Sooo let me get this straight. If u didnt download anything r u safe? Cus it happened to me twice, I was on putlocker and it popped up and said that I got a virus I did the scan but I didn't download anything. But after the first time whenever I watched youtube videos the first minute or so wouldnt really work it would play the sound but the pic was in black and white and it was weird so do the videos hav anything to do with it

  38. Linda

    oh thank goodness I read this! I've been receiving these bogus messages for the past 2 days or so, I don't know how to block the site that's been triggering these messages, so I could only clear all my history everytime I close the browser on my phone. Although I didn't download this bogus program, but I almost did, I ran the bogus "virus scan", so I hope no harm is done to my phone by that. It would only harm my phone if I actually downloaded the program right?
    Luckily I have the Avast mobile security program installed on my phone…I thought it was odd that Avast did not detect any sort of virus on my phone, now I know it's right and that those messages were bogus.

    Thanks for giving us the heads up on this! :)

  39. fakesnake

    Ha ha! This is my second device to get the fake snake warning! It's soon annoying. I want to punch whoever made it in the face!!

  40. Fin

    So glad I found this site. Just minutes ago I was told about a tapsnake virus and was in the middle of downloading the antivirus program when I found this site. I cancelled it immediately.

  41. Alondra

    I downloaded "Armor for android" and did the quick scan is that bad

  42. Judy

    I have the tapsnake warning as well… my phone is fine… but every time I try to go on the web the warning stops me… How do i get rid of the pop -up?

  43. Patrick

    I just fell for this but was suspicious enough to come here. What should I do about it.
    Thanks

  44. Kay

    I was just installing it on my PC but decided to research. When I read this article, the installation was at 90 percent. I canceled the installation immediately. If I havent researched about the Tapsnake, I would be installing a fake Anti-virus by now.

  45. Maria

    Is 360 security trustworthy? And how does the real virus alert look???

  46. Kristina

    I got a popup like this on my phone before. Not this exact one, but still. On my old phone, to stop the popup enough for me to use my browser, I used Avast Cleanup's safe clean option, then my browser went back to opening just the home page when I started it up again. That doesn't work on my new phone, so every time I open my browser, I get the popup. How do I go back to my browser's home page now? I have an S7 Edge if that helps.

  47. Jasmine

    so what do we do I have the virus now and i downloaded mac keeper is it a scam?

  48. Gerry

    Um…if I said I'd like to dismember the anal cavities who are creating all these computer viruses just before I hurt them real bad, would I be "the bad guy"?

  49. Cuteness

    It happened to my iPad Air….. thankfully I did not install fake computer virus protection!

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