Google Kicks 500 Apps Off Online Store Over Spyware Concerns

Google Kicks 500 Apps Off Online Store Over Spyware Concerns

Security researchers have identified over 500 apps on Google Play containing an advertising software development kit (SDK) called Igexin, which allowed covert download of spying plugins.

It has been used in hundreds of games, weather, internet radio, image editor and other apps, which have been downloaded in excess of 100 million times.

The security firm Lookout discovered that the Android apps in question all had the lgexin ad SDK built into them which gave unauthorised third parties access to user devices.

Although Google keeps trying to keep the malicious apps out of Android devices, every now and then some of the infected applications make their way to Google Play.

"Igexin is somewhat unique because the app developers themselves are not creating the malicious functionality - nor are they in control or even aware of the malicious payload that may subsequently execute". Some of the apps that were based on the Igexin SDK were SelfieCity (downloaded over 5 million times) and Lucky Cash (downloaded over a million times).

Lookout has informed Google of its discover and all of the affected apps have now been removed from the Play Store.

Over 500 Android apps with a combined 100 million downloads found to secretly contain spyware

Lookout experts did not mention the names of apps that included the Igexin SDK, as they did not consider that this was their fault.

Advertising SDKs are used to help developers deliver targeted ads to customers. Rather, "the invasive activity initiates from an Igexin-controlled server".

In addition, the SDK also forcibly downloaded and ran code contained in large encrypted files.

Lookout's researchers found harmless apps taking user data, such as call logs, and sending it to Igexin's servers. Other stolen data included Global Positioning System locations, lists of nearby Wi-Fi networks, and lists of installed apps.

In an e-mail to Ars Technica, a Google spokesman said: "We've taken action on these apps in Play, and automatically secured previously downloaded versions of them as well".

The researchers noticed that malware was being found on newly reset phones after they had made contact with Igexin's servers. Though not all of the applications were confirmed to download the spyware, Igexin had the opportunity to do so through any of the apps.

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