Thousands of Potentially Counterfeit Apps Found in Google Play Store
Researchers have found over 2,000 apps that are potentially counterfeits, modeled after popular app downloads. These counterfeits contain harmful malware that could harm unsuspecting users.
- By Kaitlyn DeHaven
- Jun 28, 2019
A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Data 61, found that Google’s Play store contains thousands of possible malware-laden counterfeit apps and games. These apps and games mimic popular alternatives, making users susceptible to downloading the wrong one. The most commonly copied games are Temple Run, Hill Climb Racing, and Free Flow.
“We were able to find 2,040 potential counterfeits that contain malware in a set of 49,608 apps that showed high similarity to one of the top-10,000 popular apps in Google Play Store,” the study stated. “We also [found] 1,565 potential counterfeits having at least five extra third-party advertisements libraries.”
From there, the apps were checked for malware using the private API of VirusTotal, and investigated further if they asked for a suspicious amount of permission.
The authors said that once the app is downloaded, it’s pretty easy to see it’s a malicious app, but it’s difficult to tell before the app is downloaded.
According to Forbes, the study found that the 2,400 most dangerous counterfeits “were marked by at least five commercial antivirus tools as malware.” Since the discovery of the apps, 27 to 46 percent of the potential counterfeits have been removed from the Google Play Store.
Laurence Pitt, the strategic security director of Juniper Networks, said that phone users need to become more educated on when they should clear their apps.
“What happens is people download them, realize it’s not what they expected, but then just leave it,” Pitt said. “People need to be better educated on application hygiene with their devices. We have so much storage available today that it’s become easy to download, install and forget. What would be helpful is a feature in the operating system that, periodically, alerts the user that installed applications that have not been used for a given period of time and makes the recommendations they could be uninstalled.”
Kaitlyn DeHaven is the Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.