Google has announced that its Google Play store is now home to 1 million smartphone and tablet apps, but how many of them are legitimate and how many are questionable?
Hugo Barra, Google's vice president of Android product development, revealed that Google had hit the magic app
number during an event in San Francisco on Monday evening, and Google has already confirmed that the next step will be to add a tablet-optimized app section to the store to help the growing number of Android tablet owners find the best titles. The company is also celebrating the fact that for the first time in history, Android tablets have overtaken Apple's range of iPads in terms of shipments, giving the open source ecosystem a 67 percent share of the global market, for this quarter, anyway.
And while Google can take some satisfaction in overtaking Apple, whose App Store is still ‘stuck' on 900,000 apps, a Symantec report raises some serious questions about the validity of some of the titles currently available within Google Play.
The online security firm claims that since the start of 2013 it has discovered a steady stream of suspicious applications, 1200 in all, that pop up in the store and are available for a number of days before they're flagged as inappropriate or scam apps designed to con users out of money or make them part with personal details.
In a blog post in which he reports on the findings, Symantec's Joji Hamada says that although the apps are removed quite quickly, they are still available for long enough to entrap users and, thanks to the way in which they have been written, they will often appear as the top choices when certain search terms are entered. "Their tactic of abusing the search function on Google Play allows their apps to be easily bumped to the top of keyword searches. A test search carried out by Symantec resulted in 21 out of 24 top hits being malicious apps."
Furthermore, the tactics employed by malicious app creators is also evolving. Symantec has discovered a number of apps that, if analyzed via software would be passed as clean, but are in fact designed to launch a device's browser and direct it to a suspicious website, something that could only be discovered if they were analyzed by a person, not a machine -- in other words, the almost obsessive approach that Apple takes to validating its apps before allowing them on its own App Store.
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