Search giant Google may have increased the security on its Play Store in order to combat fake apps, but it’s still far from being able to control the situation. According to the latest report that has surfaced online, a number of adware apps have been found on the Play Store masquerading as Global Positioning System (GPS) and navigation apps. It is worth mentioning that these apps have been installed several millions of times.
To be more precise, 15 such malicious navigation apps with adware have been found on the Google Play Store by ESET’s malware expert Lukas Stefanko, and they collectively, these apps have been downloaded over 50 million times. Stefanko has also posted screenshots of these 15 apps on Twitter.
What is surprising is the fact that these malicious apps don’t even have a proprietary GPS algorithm and instead, they just use Google Maps. As if this isn’t bad enough, some of them go a step ahead and just showcase advertisements on the user’s smartphone screen once they are installed.
I tested over 15 fake GPS Navigation apps with over 50,000,000 installs from #GooglePlay that violate Google rules.
These apps just open Google Maps or use their API without any additional value for user, except for displaying ads.
Some of them don't even have proper app icon. pic.twitter.com/eeIFQS5IVU
— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) January 17, 2019
Shockingly, some of them even ask the user to pay a fee to use navigation and then use Google Maps to showcase routes.
We should mention that these apps blatantly violate Google’s policy that states that no app can use the search giant’s or any other company’s services as their own and they must have their own proprietary services.
It has been stated by Google that if any app violates these policies, they would be taken off the Play Store.
Ideally, these apps should have been red-flagged during the screening done by Google itself. It’s even more shocking to know that in spite of Play Project being active in most Android smartphones, these shady apps were not detected by the search giant.
However, after they were brought to notice by Stefanko, Google removed some of the malicious navigation apps. We are hoping to see the rest of them being removed from the Play Store soon too.
We should mention that earlier this month, as many as 85 malicious apps from adware family were removed from the Google Play Store after they were found by security researchers at Trend Micro.