Scammers Targeting Google Play Users, Symantec Says

Dennis Faas's picture

According to security firm Symantec, the Google Play store is home to many potentially dangerous applications. The firm says it found approximately 1,200 suspicious apps on the store over a seven-month period.

Google Play is Google's digital distribution center, and it's where most Android users turn for downloads (in effect, it's Google's version of Apple's App Store).

More than 700,000 apps can be found on the Google Play store, which has played a central role in Android's rapid growth in the mobile market.

Between February and April 2013 sales of Android devices accounted for more than half of all smartphone sales. (Source:

Adult-Oriented Apps Raise Concerns

With so many people buying Android devices and turning to the Google Play Store for their downloads, Symantec says it's important users use caution when choosing their apps.

Many of the apps identified by Symantec as suspicious are adult-oriented. That's hardly surprising given that so many malware infections begin with victims visiting explicit websites.

Symantec says many of the scammy apps found on Google Play use a series of personal data requests to rip off users.

The firm says many of those apps are short-lived -- meaning they don't stay on Google Play for long. Nevertheless, there's a constant flow of them, with new scams appearing every day.

"Although they have short lives, the apps must provide ample profit for the scammers as they show no signs of halting their development of new ones," noted Symantec researcher Joji Hamada. (Source:

And while security companies like Symantec regularly monitor Google Play for problems, Hamada says it's difficult to keep up with the steady stream of scammy apps making their way online.

Some of the alarming apps identified as suspicious by Symantec also make their way into the store's top keyword searches, meaning they're not hard to find.

Security Improvements Coming, Google Says

For its part, Google says it's working towards better monitoring its digital distribution center.

The firm also says the next version of the Android operating system, Android 4.3, will feature an automatic scan designed to help detect and prevent the execution of malicious code. (Source:

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