Google removes apps from Play Store for hidden data collection

A number of Android apps have been removed from the Play Store because they contain code that secretly collects data – and suggests a connection to US intelligence agencies.

A piece of software secretly collects data from millions of app users. Due to this fraudulent background, Google removed some apps from the Play Store that were installed on a total of around 60 million devices. The affected app developers should laut Wall Street Journal Received money to integrate a software library that silently collects data. This was information for Internet providers and companies from the financial sector, which could use it for their own purposes, but also personal data of the users.

Google Play Store: Security problem with the apps discovered in 2021

Im Blog AppCensus reports dr. Joel Reardon (University of Calgary), who discovered the code together with Serge Egelman (UC Berkeley), that Google had already been informed about the problem in October 2021. The apps were then removed after Google itself conducted its own investigation.

The code comes from a supposedly Panamanian company and was used in apps like WiFi Mouse or weather widgets, QR and barcode scanners etc. In the end, various data were stored and forwarded by the software library. For example, it was about copied content cached in the clipboard. But GPS data, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers were also passed on.

It is not clear who is behind the scam, the website operators and companies behind (no longer available), the website to which the data was sent are difficult to identify. However, the researchers were able to identify a holding company that also registered the company Measurement Systems. According to the Wall Street Journal, this has ties to the secret service, although the company denies this. Laut Silicon Angle In response to the reports, the US Department of Defense stated that it would only purchase “publicly and commercially” available data for its own information expansion.

According to the information provided by Dr. Reardon, the data library is no longer complete and Measurement Systems no longer shows any connection to the holding company discovered by it behind the app scam. All affected apps and more information can be found in the Blog post on AppCensus.

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