A two-year survey has discovered 2040 malware-laden fake apps on the Android App Store, Google Play.
Researchers from the University of Sydney and CSIRO's Data61 examined more than a million apps available on Google Play and discovered a large number of imitated popular games and contained malware.
Other fake apps were malware-free, but requested "dangerous" data access permissions. Play Temple Run, Free Flow and Hill Climb Racing were among the most fake.
The researchers used neural networks to identify visually similar app icons and partially plagiarized text descriptions of the 10,000 most popular apps in the Play Store. The machine learning model "Multimodal Embedding" threw 49,608 potential counterfeit coins.
The potential counterfeits were then checked for malware using the online malware analysis tool VirusTotal's private API. While 7246 was labeled by at least one antivirus program, scientists used a "relaxed threshold" that left them with 2040 high-risk, fake apps.
The study also considered permission requests and embedded ad libraries, finding 1
"Although Google Play & # 39; s success has been highlighted in terms of flexibility and customization capabilities that allow almost anyone to create an app, there have been a number of problematic apps that have cracked through and bypassed automated wetting processes, author Dr Suranga Seneviratne from the University of Sydney.
"Our society is increasingly dependent on smartphone technology, so it's important that we build solutions to quickly detect and contain malicious apps before they affect a wider population of smartphone users," he added.
Paper – A multimodal neural embedding method for detecting mobile false apps was presented at the World Wide Web Conference in California in May – notes that since apps were discovered, about 35 percentage no longer available in the Play Store "may have been removed due to customer complaints".
Bad app fight
Google says it now removes malicious developers from Play much faster, and last year, several malicious apps stopped coming into the store than ever before.
The number of rejected app posts increased by more than 55 per cent. In 2018, app suspensions increased by more than 66 per cent, said the company.
"These increases are attributable to our continued efforts to tighten policies to reduce the number of malicious apps on the Play Store as our investments in automated protection and human review processes that play important roles in identifying and enforcing bad apps, "wrote Google Play product manager Andrew Ahn in a February blog post.
Attempting to deceive users by publishing famous apps is one of the most common Play Store violations, says Google. In 2017, Google took the latest available numbers down more than a quarter of a million offset apps.
In addition to increasing the number of people working with abuse technology, Google introduced Google Play Protect last year, which scans apps on user devices to "make sure everything stays in place".
It has also updated policies on permissions, which resulted in the removal last year of "tens of thousands of apps that were not consistent".
"We plan to introduce additional policies for unit rights and user data in 2019," wrote Ahn.
"Despite our improved and added layers of defense against bad apps, we know that bad actors will continue to try to avoid our systems by changing their tactics and uncovering bad behavior. We will continue to improve our Ability to counteract such adversarial behavior and work relentlessly to give our users a secure and secure app store, "he added.
Make Play Store a safe, fake free environment is an endless battle for Google.
In September, ESET researchers revealed more than a thousand people had downloaded malicious banking applications that constituted legitimate ANZ and Commonwealth Bank apps from the Play Store.
This month, Google forbids a whole portfolio of apps by a Chinese developer DO Global after a Buzzfeed survey that found a number was "abused permission and committed ad fraud".
The Data61 / University of Sydney study was partially funded by Google through its faculty research prizes as well as the NSW Cyber Security Network and the federal government's defense science and technology group.
"Many fake apps seem innocent and legitimate – smartphone users can easily fall victim to app imitations, and even a tech-savvy user can struggle to detect them before installation," Seneviratne said.
"In an open app system like Google Play, the access barrier is low, so it is relatively easy for fake apps to infiltrate the market, giving users the risk of being hacked," he added.
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