Google Play Store is the prime contributor of malware in Android: Study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Google Play Store seems to be the major contributor of malware on Android smartphones, a recent study conducted by US-based software company NortonLifeLock and IMDEA software institute in Madrid points out.

About 67.2 percent of malicious app installs happening in Android smartphones are vectored by Google play store, the research reveals by considering the high number of downloads as one of the main reasons for it.

When compared to other systems Android is the most popular operating system used around the globe, which means that app downloads are also higher in Android. The high volume of app downloads leads to higher chances for malware and viruses to intrude in now and then, even though has Google has deployed rigid security measures.

The researchers at NortonLifeLock and IMDEA have recorded data from 7.9 million apps from 12 million Android smartphones in four months, from June to September to conclude their research results.

The study is titled ‘How Did That Get In My Phone? Unwanted App Distribution on Android Devices’, has compared downloads from the Play Store with those from alternative markets, web browsers, instant messages, pay-per-install (PPI) programs and seven other sources.

When the downloads were compared, about 87.2 percent of the total app downloads on Android devices are made from Google Play Store and 67.5 percent of malicious app installs are also happening from there. It was found that 10 percent to 24 percent of Android users have come across at least one unwanted app download over this period.

Interestingly, the total downloads in alternative app markets are 5.7 percent and the malicious installs in it were about 10 percent. Further, installs from backups accounts for 2 percent of the total installs, out of which 4.8 percent were unwanted installs.

Even though this does not mean that the Google Play Store permits malicious apps or that its safety measures are not rigid enough. The study points out that the Play Store VDR ( virtual data room) is only 0.6 percent, which is better than all other distribution vectors.

“Thus, the Play market defenses against unwanted apps work, but still significant amounts of unwanted apps are able to bypass them, making it the main distribution vector for unwanted apps,” the researchers stated.