Google Removes Malicious Android Apps

More than 50 apps in the Android Market have been identified as malicious, prompting Google to take steps to remove them.
Google on Wednesday confirmed that it has removed a number of Android apps from its Android Market for policy violations but declined to say how many apps it had removed.

The Android Market Developer Program Policies forbid the distribution of malicious software. Nonetheless, mobile security firm Lookout has identified over 50 apps in the Android Market infected with malware.

According to Lookout, a Reddit user going by the name "Lompolo" first reported problems with the software.

Lookout is calling the malware DroidDream. Another security firm, Kaspersky, says the malware tries to gather data about the user and his or her device, including product ID, device type, language, country, and userID, and then tries to upload this information to a remote server.

Unlike the way Apple reviews iOS apps, Google relies on Android users to flag apps they believe violate rules. Applications that have been flagged a certain number of times are then reviewed by Google staff and removed if necessary. The Android operating system is also designed to seek permission from the user before allowing apps to access certain information. Whether users adequately understand these notifications remains open to question.

Symantec says Android malware, such as Android.Geimini and Android.Pjapps, has been spotted recently in unofficial app stores. The trend has been for malware creators to bundle popular free apps with malware designed to steal user data.

This latest outbreak has affected the official Google Android Market. Symantec estimates that the infected apps have been downloaded between 50,000 and 200,000 times.

Google declined to comment on whether it could confirm any identity theft or other harm arising from the malware.

Back in August 2009, Google told the FCC, "Approximately 1% of all applications that have been uploaded to Android Market and subsequently made available to consumers subsequently have been taken down by Google." Not all of these removals are necessarily related to malware; some may represent other policy violations. Google declined to comment on whether this figure remains accurate.

That was when the Android Market had 6,000 apps. Today, that figure stands at over 270,000, according to AndroLib.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins 2, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading