Malicious Apps On Google Play Increase By 388 Percent

Online security company RiskIQ has announced that the number of malicious apps on Google Play has increased by a staggering 388 percent. That increase happened between 2011 and 2013 with the number of apps increasing from 11,000 to 42,000.

Apps mentioned by Risk IQ seem to largely deal with personalizing your phone, entertainment and gaming. But apps popular with business users might also be affected too. The report classed an app as malicious if it contained spyware, or an SMS trojan.

Malicious apps do a variety of different things including sending contact lists, email addresses and other important information to third parties without the user’s consent.

Google managed to remove about 60 percent of malicious apps from Google Play in 2011. By 2013, the malicious apps Google had removed had dropped to only 23 percent of those in the store, the report claims. This means Google left the remainder of these apps on the site to be downloaded by unsuspecting users.

“The explosive growth of mobile apps has attracted a criminal element looking for new ways to distribute malware that can be used to commit fraud, identity theft and steal confidential data” said Elias Manousos CEO of RiskIQ. “Malicious apps are an effective way to infect users since they often exploit the trust victims have in well known brands and companies they do business with”.

Not everyone is convinced by the report though. ZDNet expresses huge doubt, by virtue of the fact that Google routinely scans the Google Play store for malware, using a program called Bouncer. Bouncer also scans new apps which are uploaded to the store for the first time. And the app doesn’t make it into the store, unless Bouncer gives it the all-clear. So if malicious apps have really increased by almost 400 percent, then is Bouncer a total failure?

If these stats are true, then it would be good news for Apple, who has many more safeguards in place to prevent malware apps. A report like this may deter people from using an Android device, and instead persuade them to use an iOS device instead.

Image: Google Play

15 Comments ▼

Mark O'Neill - Staff Writer


Mark O'Neill Mark O'Neill is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering software and social media. He is a freelance journalist who has been writing for over 25 years, and has successfully made the leap from newspapers and radio onto the Internet. From 2007-2013, he was the Managing Editor of MakeUseOf.com.

15 Reactions

  1. I’m glad that there’s an app that scans for malicious apps. If there’s one thing that Android devices need, it’s protection. There is simply too much news going around about viruses on Android.

  2. Yet another Google-related occurrence related to malicious ware. To me, the list is getting long and worrying.

    I don’t think I’ll be getting Android anytime soon.

    • What is the app that scans for malicious apps???? “Armor for Android” showed up on my android phone and I
      can’t delete or uninstall it. Any help for me? If not, I don’t think I will be getting another android phone any time or ever. Thanks

      • I use the Lookout Security app, it came with my T-mobile HTC One android phone. I haven’t turned on all of it’s features, but I do use their auto app scanning feature. It scans apps for malware before downloading them. It works fast, and does a further weekly check. It’s not yet found anything, so I can’t say how well it works, but it is at least active, and I haven’t seen any complaints about it online.

        Also, the anti-malware apps often resist being removed from the device easily, so that malware that is written to turn them off…can’t. At least that’s what I was told by somebody at t-mobile or HV\TC help lines.

      • Hi Nancy, that message is a bad one. I’ve encountered that, although I didn’t click on it. We’ll put out a call and see if anyone knows how to eliminate that issue.

        - Anita

      • Oh gosh, sorry about that, Nancy. I do hope you find a way to get rid of it, that perhaps the one Cathy mentioned might be able to help, or that someone else here can recommend something that’ll work for you.

        All the best.

      • This makes me think twice about downloading more apps on my phone. Maybe my phone is better off downloading apps to my PC first. Will this work?

    • A perfect advert for an iPhone? ;-)

      • Haha, Mark! You have a veeeeery good point there! Not sure what I’d get if I wanted to buy a smartphone. I’m not ruling out an iPhone, but it more than likely wouldn’t be an Android (sorry, Google).

      • well if not an iPhone, your only other choice is a Windows phone. Personally I would rather have an Android!! ;-)

      • OK! :)

        I don’t have a smartphone and don’t plan on getting one for a while, so I have no buying decisions to be making yet.

        After all is said and done, I might end up with an Android! Will however do my research to weigh up the pros and cons with that vs an iPhone.

      • well, the only downside to an iPhone is its cost. But the way I look at it is “you get what you pay for”. Paying extra for an iPhone (in my opinion) guarantees a much more robust well-made phone, and a powerful operating system, with apps that are carefully screened before being allowed into the App Store.

        Google is too lax when it comes to policing their app store. They let all kinds of crap in, and this lets all the viruses and malware in.

      • Yeah, I’ve noticed quite a few of Google’s products appear to be vulnerable to attack. Why they’re not putting their backs into it to nip it in the bud as much as possible is beyond me. I guess perhaps if sales went down significantly, they might do something (more) about it.

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