Google Play Store Removed Over 1K Creeperware Apps Back In 2019, And Now Some Are Making A Comeback

Cybersecurity experts notified Google back in 2019 that 1,095 malicious and dangerous applications were being published on the Play Store. Google removed those 1,095 malicious apps from the Play Store at that time. It was discovered that those malicious and dangerous apps could be used to monitor, surveil, and harass the Android users.

The discovery of those potentially malicious apps ultimately led to one of the most significant mass removals of Android apps in history. Some of those apps were not even initially been reported as they didn’t seem to violate Google’s guidelines technically. Now, less than a year later, it appears that some of those dangerous apps might be making a comeback to Google Play Store under different titles, yet performing the same malicious and dangerous functions.

Cybersecurity researchers named these apps as ‘creeperware’ because that’s what most of these malicious apps do. These apps creep up on Android users and their privacy. Most of these dangerous apps are used to spy on users and spoofing mobile numbers. Some of these apps can even record video and audio without notifying users.

Although some of these apps were created initially to help parents keep a check on their children, people often misuse these apps to spy on partners and strangers. Usually, those partners and strangers do not even have any idea that they are digitally spied on. Parents spying their children using these apps is also in itself debatable.

These apps can past the controls of the Google Play Store because of the open nature of Android operating system as opposed to that of an iOS system. Apple’s App Store has a strict view of these types of apps, while Google allows a bit more margin for its operating system and apps that are allowed to be installed on its OS. Although the Android apps submitted for dangerous and malicious codes are scanned automatically by them, developers have been known to trick Google’s system and get past its system.

This results in the presence of malicious apps such as ‘Catch Cheating Spouse’ and other similar Android apps on the Google Play Store along with their ‘stalkware packages.’ The current system requires extra tools which can indicate that an app can be misused to track and abuse users. So, the cybersecurity researchers who discovered those creepware apps back in 2019 have now developed a custom-based algorithm system, and they call it the ‘CreepRank’.

CreepRank evaluated a database of Android apps that were anonymous. This anonymous database of Android apps was installed on nearly 50 million devices, and the significant categories of these apps discovered by the researchers are ‘child-monitoring’ and ‘phone number spoofing applications’.

Researchers revealed that the majority of these apps are again published on Google Play Store, and millions of Android users have downloaded these apps. Google has been making efforts to protect users from potentially malicious apps outside the Google Play Store by introducing new features such as Play Protect. Still, Google needs to be capable of recognizing such malicious apps within its own system. According to experts, Google needs to make an OS-level update to protect its users from these apps.

Read next: This Research Ranks Popular Android Smartphones Based On How Long Their Security Updates Take To Reach To Device Owners
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