The smartphones in our pockets change constantly, whether we notice or not. Tech companies usually add features or fix security vulnerabilities. Sometimes it requires permanently removing something from your device. See what Google banned from Android devices.
Google has banned dozens of apps that were secretly harvesting data from users.
Google removed dozens of apps from Google Play on March 25, making them unusable for Android users. After The Wall Street Journal reported that a company developing the apps was secretly collecting user data, the tech giant pulled the software.
Apps running hidden code stole location data, email addresses, phone numbers, and more.
According to research, Panama-based Measurement Systems S. de R.L. wrote the malicious code and paid app developers worldwide to include it as part of a software development kit (SDK). After users downloaded apps with the code, the company—which has ties to a Virginia-based cyber intelligence and intelligence-intercept contractor—was able to collect scores of personal data, including location, email addresses, phone numbers, and even nearby devices on the same network.
Measurement Systems' data collection methods were far more intrusive than those used by other app developers to generate third-party revenue. Researchers believe at least 60 million devices downloaded the now-banned programmes that secretly stole data.
"This saga continues to underscore the importance of not accepting candy from strangers," Serge Egelman, one of the investigators and a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, told the Wall Street Journal. He added that the affected apps could "without a doubt be described as malware."
Many different types of programs were affected, including QR code scanners, weather apps, and Muslim prayer apps.
The investigation found that many apps, including Muslim prayer apps downloaded more than 10 million times by Android users, used the Measurement Systems SDK. Forbes reports it was hidden in a QR code scanner, highway speed camera detection app, weather app, and remote WiFi mouse app.