Google Play Store is plagued by counterfeit apps?

There is an app for that. There always is. But is it real? Everything can be fabricated these days and sometimes it can be rather unsettling. Scientists from University of Sydney investigated over a million apps in Google Play Store and found over 2,000 counterfeit apps. Temple Run, Free Flow, Hill Climb Racing and other popular games were the most common targets for the creators of counterfeit apps.

We depend on our smartphones too much to allow malware access them so easily. Image credit: micadew via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You are using tens of apps every day. Usually they are made by big names – Youtube, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Skype and so on. You trust them. But sometimes you just want to have a little fun and download something more adventurous. It might be a game, but it might also be a new fitness and health app, photo editor, educational app or something along those lines. Do you ever check the publisher? Do you ever wonder if you are downloading the original? Most people don’t think about it and it might be a mistake.

Your counterfeit watch may not work tomorrow, but a counterfeit app is going to steal your data. Scientists, who found 2,040 potential counterfeit apps in Google Play Store, say that many of them contained malware. Popular games such as Temple Run, Free Flow and Hill Climb Racing were the most commonly counterfeited. They attract customers, but they are also offering real malware to go with their counterfeit app. Malware may be designed to steal your banking information, but it can also be used to commit something even more serious – an identity theft.

Your intimate pictures might get stolen or your phone will be locked. Your data may be blocked from you. And then the users of the malware are going to ask you for money in exchange of getting your phone and information back. Counterfeit apps are really not worth it – do your best to avoid them.

The Google Play Store hosts over 2.6 million applications, many of which have been developed by third parties. It is the largest platform of its kind, but it also has a lot of counterfeit apps. Having in mind what a role smartphones have in our lives now, it is a dangerous situation. Dr. Suranga Seneviratne, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our society is increasingly reliant on smartphone technology so it’s important that we build solutions to quickly detect and contain malicious apps before affecting a wider population of smartphone users”.

There are some things you can do to avoid counterfeit apps. Research the publisher, avoid sketchy-looking apps, pay attention to permission requests and read the description. Do not download an app if it looks suspect for you. Counterfeit apps can be dangerous and may end up costing you more than you’d care to think about. Choose apps from reliable sources.


Source: University of Sydney


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