Google Reveals Malware from Google Play Doubled in 2018

Google has just revealed in a report that the number of malware installed from Google Play has doubled in number last year. While this sounds alarming, Google tried to reassure the public that it is still safer to install apps from Google Play only because the increase in number is only caused by the inclusion of click-fraud apps in “potentially harmful apps” (PHA).

Because of the inclusion, the number of PHA installed grew by 100%, from .02% in the year 2017 to .04% last year. Google further argued that if it removes click-fraud apps from the list of PHAs, the number of PHAs installed will have declined by 31% year over year.

Based on the report, the number of click-fraud apps consists of 55% of all PHAs installed from the Play Store. The more harmful Trojan malware comes at a 16% installation rate.

The company found out that these click-fraud apps mostly target users from the United States, Brazil, and Mexico.


What is malware?

A malware is a software designed to cause damage, disrupt normal operations, and/or gain access to a computer system without proper authorization.


Why do they distribute click-fraud apps?

Based on Google, "Distributing click-fraud code in this way is easily scalable and makes it easy for click-fraud SDK developers to be present in the apps of hundreds or even thousands of developers."


Google’s level of protection

Despite the report, the company has claimed that it is doing well in terms of protecting users from harmful apps. Outside the Play Store, Google claims that it has prevented 1.6 billion of PHA attempts last year, stopping about 73% of PHA installation. The company further claims that there is even a 20% improvement in terms of protection in 2018.

The type of malware that could attack computer systems is also different outside the Play Store as the report notes. Backdoors have been dominating in terms of download or installation and distribution at 28%. Trojans are revealed to have been downloaded and distributed at the rate of 25%, hostile downloads at 22%, and click-fraud apps at 13%.


What are backdoors, trojans, hostile downloads, and click-fraud apps?

Backdoors are undocumented portals that allow third parties like hackers and intelligence agencies to gain unauthorized access to the system, which consequently allows them to troubleshoot or even to upkeep.

A trojan is a malicious code (or even a software program) that appears to be harmless but can infiltrate and take over your computer system. It tricks you into loading and executing the malware into your computer or mobile device.

Hostile downloads are apps that automatically download programs that are considered harmful to your device and computer system. They are often bundled with another program.

Click-fraud apps are those that imitate the action of a legitimate user by automatically clicking on an advertisement displayed on the web, even though the user has no interest in clicking it.

According to a cybersecurity expert, “In 2018, mobile device users faced what could have been the fiercest cybercriminal onslaught ever seen. Over the course of the year, we observed both new mobile device infection techniques, such as DNS hijacking, along with an increased focus on enhanced distribution schemes, like SMS spam. This trend demonstrates the growing need for mobile security solutions to be installed on smartphones – to protect users from device infection attempts, regardless of the source.”

There seems to be an evolution in ways hackers and developers of harmful apps and malware attack users. To protect yourself from these attacks, it is advised for you to install applications from official app stores only. Block programs that are installed from unknown sources. Do not bypass your device’s restrictions by all means and most importantly, install updates for your system and applications. These updates can patch potential loopholes and they keep you and your devices secured.

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