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Google removed 700,000 bad apps from Play Store last year; 70% more than in 2016

Google says it used new machine learning algorithm and techniques to identify fake and bad apps.

  • Published: January 31, 2018 10:42 AM IST
Google play store

Google says it removed 700,000 apps from the Play Store that violated its policies in 2017. The number is a 70 percent jump from the number of apps it removed a year before.

Google says the apps removed from the store are ones that were found to be misleading, inappropriate or harmful. The apps are removed from the Store in order to ensure that Android users are better protected. Google has also stopped sharing the total number apps available on the Play Store.

According to Statista, the Google Play Store was home to 2.8 million apps at the end of March 2017. It remains unclear how many of those were bad apps, and what is the number of apps available in the store after the removal of around 700,000 apps.

The most critical information shared by Google today is the fact that 99 percent of these apps with misleading or abusive content were identified and removed by the company even before anyone could install them last year. Google says it was possible to identify such apps and remove them with the implementation of machine learning algorithm and techniques to detect abuse such as impersonation, inappropriate content or malware.

Google also notes that it took down 100,000 bad developers in 2017, and made it difficult for bad actors to create new accounts and restrict attempt to publish yet another set of bad apps. It also notes that the odds of malware being distributed through Google Play by 10x lower compared to apps installed from outside sources.

Google also explains how it differentiates bad app or actors on its platform.

Copycats

Google says apps trying to deceive users by impersonating famous apps is one of the most common violations on the platforms. It also notes that famous titles get a lot of search traffic for particular keywords, and the bad actors try to cash on this traffic. “They do this by trying to sneak in impersonating apps to the Play Store through deceptive methods such as using confusable unicode characters or hiding impersonating app icons in a different locale,” Andrew Ahn, Product Manager, Google Play said in a blog post.

Recently an app was found stealing credentials of Android users by impersonating an Uber app. App developers with bad intent have previously offered fake apps in the form of WhatsApp as well. Google says it took down more than a quarter of a million of impersonating apps from its platform in 2017.

Inappropriate content

Google says it does not allow apps that contain or promote inappropriate content such as pornography, extreme violence, hate, and illegal activities. The apps submitted for approval are tested with improved machine learning models, and are flagged for potential violations. “Tens of thousands of apps with inappropriate content were taken down last year as a result of such improved detection methods,” Ahn adds.

Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs)

These are the most critical type of applications being distributed through the Play Store. The PHAs are apps that are capable of conducting SMS fraud, act as trojans or phish users’ information and potentially harm both people and their devices. Google says it managed to reduce the rate of PHA installs by 50 percent in 2017 with the launch of Google Play Protect.

Google is well aware that Play Store is still not the safest platform for distribution, and some malicious developers do end up tricking its layers of defense. However, it plans to continue to better detect and protect Android users against abusive apps and the malicious actors behind them.

  • Published Date: January 31, 2018 10:42 AM IST