Google say they removed 700,000 bad apps from the PlayStore in 2017, a 70% increase from 2016

Earlier this month, a new bug called the Adult Swine Bug was found in 60 apps in the Google PlayStore. The Adult Swine Bug allowed apps to release inappropriate and malicious adverts to its users, a lot of whom were children. Google were relatively quick to remove the apps however questions were asked as to why the applications were allowed on the PlayStore for installation in the first place.

In a response Google recently released a blog entitled ?How we fought bad apps and malicious developers in 2017?. In this response Google have pretty much tried to boast their success, explaining how they removed over 700,000 bad apps from the PlayStore in 2017, up 70% from 2016. They claim that they are removing 99% of these apps before any user installs them, however 1% still ?slip through the net? and account for around 7000 a year.

So what are Bad Apps?;

  • Copycat apps ? Apps that attempt to deceive users by copying a well-known, popular app.
  • Inappropriate content ? Apps that promote pornography, extreme violence, hate and illegal activities.
  • Potentially Harmful Apps ? Apps that contain malicious malware that aim to help criminals with acts of fraud, theft and spying.

Googles PlayStore may seem relatively similar to Apples AppStore to users, however for developers it is a lot easier and less time consuming to upload products for users to download. Unlike the PlayStore, apps must go through security checks and tests before being allowed to be uploaded to the AppStore for users to download. This is to help make the AppStore as safe and authentic as possible for Apple users and also scares off many bad app developers. However as we are all aware, Apples AppStore is not all perfect and some bad apps have managed to crack their way onto users devices in the past.

Google has more of a reactive approach to bad apps. They use detection techniques that monitor all applications and checks them as they are being uploaded to the PlayStore. Any applications that are found to be malicious or dangerous are removed and the developer is flagged to prevent any further uploads from that account in future. This is how Google removed 700,000 applications in 2017.

The issue with Googles technique is that their bad app detection is a lot like an antivirus. Antivirus can only prevent viruses that have been discovered before, any new viruses are likely to successfully make their way on to the PlayStore and on to user devices. This would account for the 1% of apps that Google were not able to remove before any users had downloaded them, apps containing the Adult Swine bug being an example.

It?s evident that both Google and Apple need to do more to ensure their users are consistently downloading safe and authentic apps from their stores. With an estimated 60,000 apps being added to the AppStore per month we have to be aware that an estimated 1% of those are malicious. Although you may argue that it is Google and Apples responsibility to ensure all applications are safe, we must still remain cautious when downloading new applications ourselves.

What I would like to see is some sort of ?verified? symbol on trusted applications. Twitter and Facebook have had it for years, verified users and organisations have a blue tick next to their name to let users know they are not following a fake or mock account. This would be a good tool to use to ensure users know when they are downloading an authentic and trusted application.

How to know you are installing a safe and authentic app;

  • Spelling mistakes in the name, title and description of the application ? Copycat apps aren?t able to copy the exact name of an app that already exists. They will add small spelling mistakes to try and trick users into installing the application.
  • Reviews ? Popular apps will have hundreds to thousands of reviews. Check the rating and how many reviews it has had, always find an app with full stars suspicious.
  • Is it in the AppCharts? ? Popular applications will likely be found in Google and Apples ?Top Charts?, always look here first for any applications you want to download.