Android mascots are lined up in the demonstration area at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. Credit: Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
A recently released survey indicates that 25 percent of apps available in Google Play are "suspicious" or "questionable."
In its latest report, "Pausing Goolge Play," released last week, Bit9 catalogued detailed information on more than 400,000 of the 600,000 currently available apps within Google Play and performed an in-depth binary package analysis on a further sub-sample of 100,000 to form its conclusions, which should put all Android phone users on alert. The average mobile device user has 41 apps installed, meaning that 10 apps running on one's phone could pose risks to their personal data.
The research reveals that 42 percent of all apps access location data (GPS), 31 percent access phone calls or phone numbers, 26 percent have access to personal information, 9 percent use permissions that can result in financial charges to the user, and 1 percent have access to account information. What's more, 72 percent of the apps request at least one potentially risky permission and 285 apps in the sample group used 25 or more system permissions.
Bit9 also discovered that 71 percent of apps in the sample (293,496) are free, and when running a search for the term "Angry Birds" of the 115 apps that featured the key words, only four were from Rovio Mobile, the official Angry Birds developer.
The high percentage of free and misleading apps is also cause for concern. A separate 18-month analysis by Juniper Networks published on October 30 revealed that free Android apps were 401 percent more likely to track users' location and 314 percent more likely to access a phone's address book than paid-for apps.
According to the latest figures form IDC, Android now has a 75 percent share of all smartphone devices worldwide making it a prime target for hackers and malware and as the marketplace is much more open to third-party developers than Apple's app store, the likelihood of downloading a corrupted or malicious app is greatly increased.
Bit9 also surveyed a number of IT professionals responsible for protecting company networks at businesses that allow users to bring and use their own devices, 84 percent of whom believed that Apple's IOS operating system is more secure than Android.