Security Experts:

1.2 Million Bad Apps Blocked From Reaching Google Play in 2021

Google claims that it prevented 1.2 million bad applications from reaching Google Play in 2021, but cybercriminals are still finding ways to deliver malware through the official Android app store.

According to data shared by Google on Wednesday, its automated systems helped block 1.2 million “policy violating apps” from being published on Google Play, thus preventing billions of “harmful installations.”

In addition, the internet giant blocked 190,000 accounts belonging to bad developers, and it closed half a million developer accounts that were abandoned or inactive.

The company said it has also taken various other steps to improve Android security and privacy, including by providing new compliance tools for developers, improving the safety of SDKs, limiting access to sensitive APIs and data, and new malware detection capabilities for Pixel phones.

But despite these improvements, malware and scam apps continue making their way to Google Play, and some of them are installed by hundreds of thousands and even millions of users.

Recent examples of Android malware that was delivered through Google Play include the Xenomorph banking trojan, the Dark Herring scareware, the SharkBot banking trojan, the Joker fleeceware (subscribes users to premium services), and the Facestealer information stealer.

Cybersecurity firm Dr Web reported recently that it had seen “many threats on Google Play” at the beginning of the year, including apps that lured victims to phishing sites and ones that subscribed users to paid services.

Google also informed users this week that they will start seeing a new Data Safety section in Google Play. In this section, application developers are required — until July 20 — to provide information on whether they are collecting data and sharing it with third parties, and the security practices of their app. The Data Safety section was first announced in May 2021.

Related: Google Details New Privacy and Security Policies for Android Apps

Related: 44 Vulnerabilities Patched in Android With April 2022 Security Updates

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.