Report: Malware-infected Android apps spike in the Google Play store

Where's My Droid and Speed Night were cited as the most downloaded malicious apps

Bow before your scrumptious Android god.

Bow before your scrumptious Android god.

The number of mobile apps infected with malware in Google's Play store nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, a security group has reported.

In 2011, there were approximately 11,000 apps in Google's mobile marketplace that contained malicious software capable of stealing people's data and committing fraud, according to the results of a study published Wednesday by RiskIQ, an online security services company. By 2013, more than 42,000 apps in Google's store contained spyware and information-stealing Trojan programs, researchers said.

Apps designed to personalize people's Android-based phones were most susceptible, as well as entertainment and gaming apps. Some of the most malicious apps in the Google Play store downloaded since 2011 were Wallpaper Dragon Ball, a wallpaper app, and the games Finger Hockey and Subway Surfers Free Tips.

Both Wallpaper Dragon Ball and Finger Hockey, RiskIQ said, have malware that steals confidential information such as device IDs from infected devices. Subway Surfers Free Tips, meanwhile, uses a Trojan called Air Push to bypass a device's security settings and subscribe infected phones to premium services, the company said.

RiskIQ performed its analysis using its own software that crawls app stores, websites and web ads. The technology, the company said, exposes malware that would otherwise not show itself to traditional web crawler software.

Android apps were only counted as being malicious if they behaved in specific ways as a result of malware. The behavior may include: collecting and sending GPS coordinates, contact lists and e-mail addresses to third parties; recording phone conversations and sending them to attackers; taking control of the infected phone; or downloading other malware onto the phone.

Apps in Apple's store were not analyzed.

The findings show that the rising prominence of mobile apps among consumers also makes them a juicy target for hackers. Reports of possible malware in clones of the popular Flappy Bird mobile game recently surfaced, even after it was removed from app stores.

"The explosive growth of mobile apps has attracted a criminal element looking for new ways to distribute malware that can be used to commit fraud, identity theft and steal confidential data," said RiskIQ CEO Elias Manousos, in announcing the findings.

Malicious apps are an effective way to infect users, he said, since they often exploit the trust people have in brands and companies they do business with.

But while the number of malicious Android apps is rising, the percentage of them removed by Google is on the decline, researchers said. In 2011 Google removed 60 percent of malicious apps, but in 2013 the company removed less than a quarter of them, the report said.

That's probably due to the rapid increase in malicious software. The overall number of malicious apps removed by Google still increased from roughly 7,000 in 2011 to nearly 10,000 in 2013.

Google said it would need more information about RiskIQ's analysis to comment on the findings.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessocial networkingmobilespywareinternetsearch enginesmalwaremobile applicationsconsumer electronicsGooglesecuritygamesMobile OSes

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?