Google enlists help of THREE cyber security firms to scan all new Android apps for viruses in a desperate bid to stop malware-riddled software infiltrating the Play Store

  • The ‘App Defense Alliance’ includes Zimperium, ESET and Lookout
  • They will use scanning and threat detection tools to root out malicious apps
  •  Google admitted there were too many apps for it to handle alone

Google has recruited three cyber security companies to help it scan new Android apps that are submitted to the Play Store for viruses and other malware.   

The newly formed ‘App Defense Alliance’ – which includes security companies Zimperium, ESET and Lookout – will use scanning and threat detection tools to evaluate all new apps submitted to Google Play before they go live.

This is designed to cut down on the amount of malware-riddled software infiltrating the Play Store, after Google admitted that the number of apps being uploaded was too large for it to handle alone.

‘On the malware side we haven’t really had a way to scale as much as we’ve wanted to scale,” Dave Kleidermacher, Google’s vice president of Android security and privacy, told Wired. 

Last month, ESET said it had discovered 42 apps on the Play Store that had been infecting Android phones with adware (stock photo)

“What the App Defense Alliance enables us to do is take the open ecosystem approach to the next level. 

‘We can share information not just ad hoc, but really integrate engines together at a digital level, so that we can have real-time response, expand the review of these apps, and apply that to making users more protected.’

The news comes amid reports that Android users are being tricked into downloading fake antivirus apps that are putting people’s sensitive data at risk. 

Last month, ESET said it had discovered 42 apps on the Play Store that had been infecting Android phones with adware designed to steal device information and plaster screens with full-size ads.  

Those apps were reportedly downloaded by users 8 million times after being introduced in July 2018.

Android users are being tricked into downloading fake antivirus apps and adware that are putting people’s sensitive data at risk

Meanwhile, security researcher Jan Youngren from VPN Pro recently analysed the top 30 free antivirus apps available on Google Play and found that ten of these apps have a host of dangerous access permissions or known malware.

The apps, with a total of around 1.9 billion downloads worldwide, are believed to use these permissions to collect and sell on personal data or spread malware to force the user to pay for it to be uninstalled.  

When a person installs one of these free apps they unwittingly grant it access to use part of their phone’s technology, according to VPN Pro. 

These ‘dangerous access permissions’ range from secretly recording audio, to making phone calls and recording location data. 

Google has admitted that the number of apps being uploaded Is too large for it to handle alone 

‘These antivirus apps are requesting a large amount of dangerous permissions which is very suspicious – there is simply no legitimate reason for them to do so,’ said Youngren.

‘Consumers must understand what these permissions actually do and exercise a lot of caution in granting them.’

The new scanning system is the latest in a series of steps Google has taken in an attempt to better police the Play store.

In April, it announced more rigorous checks for developers, to root out those who deliberately produce and upload malicious or fraudulent apps.

HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR INFORMATION ONLINE?

Because hackers are becoming more creative, security experts are warning that consumers need to take all possible measures to protect their identities (file photo)

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