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Two Apps Hosted on Google Play Caught Sending User Data to Chinese Servers

Two applications hosted on Google Play, with over 1.5 million combined downloads, were caught sending user data to servers in China.

Two file management applications hosted on Google Play, with more than 1.5 million combined downloads, were caught sending user data to servers in China, mobile security firm Pradeo reports.

Published to Google Play by the same developer, the two applications, ‘File Recovery and Data Recovery’ and ‘File Manager’, were seen launching without user interaction and silently exfiltrating a trove of sensitive user information.

According to Pradeo, the two spyware apps would send out users’ contact list, media content, real-time location, network provider, country code, network code, operating system information, and device brand and model.

“Specifically, each application performs more than a hundred transmissions of the collected data, an amount that is so large it is rarely observed,” Pradeo says.

The collected information is sent to multiple servers in China, which have been identified as malicious.

In Google Play, both applications claim to collect no user data, but also state that, if any data is collected, users could not request the data to be deleted.

The two applications, Pradeo says, have no reviews, suggesting that their download counts might have been artificially inflated.

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“We believe the hacker used an install farm or mobile device emulators to fake those numbers, hence making its applications better ranked in stores’ category lists and increasing their apparent legitimacy,” the security firm notes.

A look at the history of these applications shows that both were published in Google Play roughly a month ago and that both received updates at the end of June. Within a week of receiving the updates, their download counts went up by roughly 500,000 each.

The applications were also found to request advanced permissions that allow them to restart devices and then launch automatically, without user interaction, and to hide their icons, to make it difficult for users to remove them.

Both applications appear to have been removed from Google Play.

Related: Android Security Updates Patch 3 Exploited Vulnerabilities

Related: Anatsa Banking Trojan Delivered via Google Play Targets Android Users in US, Europe

Related: Android App With 50,000 Downloads in Google Play Turned Into Spyware via Update

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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