Researchers from the University of Sydney and CSIRO’s Data61 investigated more than a million apps to discover many fake apps that impersonated popular games.

Study finds 2040 counterfeit apps in Google Play Store containing malware
Atom Cyber Security Wednesday, June 26, 2019 - 10:04
Written by  S. Mahadevan

Google’s Play Store has had to fight the image of having poor security, particularly when compared with rival Apple’s App Store. If there was any doubt on this impression, there is now a full-scale research done to establish that there are indeed thousands of apps which are counterfeit in nature and what’s more, a number of them carry malware. The research was carried out by a team from University of Sydney along with CSIRO’s Data61 and they tested over a million apps from Google’s Play Store.

The highlight of their finding has been that a majority of these apps are impersonated apps of popular games. If there were apps that had no malware in them, they would be found asking for too many permissions which could lead to data misuse later or to push unsolicited ads through other means. Games Temple Run, Free Flow and Hill Climb Racing are some of the games mentioned in the research report having counterfeit apps.

The research team used the latest technology, including machine learning techniques, in their work. While they identified 49,608 potential counterfeit apps, the full exercise yielded a list of 2040 fake apps laden with high risk.

The background to this is explained by the open environment Google operates in allowing a lot of freedom to the developers to work on their apps. Google is fully aware of the issue that it is faced with and the company was one of the sponsors of this research at the University of Sydney.

It has also to be said to the credit of the company that it had initiated several steps to curb this serious security issue with the apps on the Play Store. It had first attacked the permissions front first and denied outright permissions to many apps. In the next stage there were hundreds and thousands of suspicious apps removed from the Play Store. The number quoted is a quarter of a million. Lastly, the approval regimen has been tightened a lot so that only those apps that are genuine are allowed to be uploaded.

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