Over 2,000 malicious apps exists on Play Store
If you thought that the quality control issues plaguing the Google Play Store for Android were finally being ironed out, it couldn’t be further from the truth. A two-year-study by the University of Sydney and CSIRO’s Data61 has come to the conclusion that there are at least 2,040 counterfeit apps on Google Play Store. Over 2,000 of those apps impersonated popular games and had malware. The paper, a Multi-modal Neural Embedding Approach for Detecting Mobile Counterfeit Apps, was presented at the World Wide Web Conference in California in May documenting the results.
The study shows that there is a massive number of impersonated popular gaming apps available on Play store. They include fake versions of popular games such as Temple Run, Free Flow and Hill Climb Racing. The study investigated around 1.2 million apps on Google Play Store, available in Android, and identified a set of potential counterfeits for the top 10,000 apps.
Counterfeit apps impersonate popular apps and try to misguide users`. “Many counterfeit apps can be identified once installed. However, even a tech-savvy user may struggle to detect them before installation,” the study says.
It also points out that fake apps are often used by hackers to steal user data or infect a device with malware. “Installing counterfeit apps can lead to a hacker accessing personal data and can have serious consequences like financial losses or identity theft,” reads a blog post by the university.
The study also found that 1,565 asked for at least five dangerous permissions and 1407 had at least five embedded third-party ad libraries.
To investigate these applications on Google Play store the researchers used neural networks.
Google has acknowledged the problem of “malicious apps and developers” in a blog post by Google Play product manager Andrew Ahn on February 13, 2019.
According to Google, the company now removes malicious developers from Play store much faster when compared to previous years. The company says that in 2018 it stopped more malicious apps from entering the store than ever before.
A Google spokesperson, in response to a TOI email, said, “When we find that an app has violated our policies, we remove it from Google Play.”