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Hundreds of 'Creepware' apps removed from Google Play store

Team of researchers found apps that were able to extract message from a phone as well as track a user's location without letting them know.

  • Published: May 13, 2020 7:49 PM IST
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Google has removed over 800 Android apps from its app store after a team of academicians said they operate like creepware. As reported in the ZDNet report, such apps are not fully capable of being used like a spyware or stalkerware but can be used for spying on other person through their device. Also Read - Google Play Store offering up to Rs 100 cashback with Paytm UPI

The report titled, “The Many Kinds of Creepware Used for Interpersonal Attacks” has been published by researchers from New York University, Cornell Tech, and NortonLifeLock (formerly Symantec) who have looked into apps with potential to be creepware. Also Read - Facebook tried to buy NSO Spyware Pegasus to monitor its users: Report

The group has developed a CreepRank algorithm which allows them to identify apps based on their creepware-like behaviour and rank them accordingly. For instance, if the app was able to retrieve messages from a device, or able to clone social accounts, and track location, they were recognised as creepware by the group. Also Read - Samsung smartphones and tablets come pre-installed with Chinese Spyware: Report

How CreepRank works?

The research team did this by running CreepRank on a sample of anonymized data from apps installed on over 50 million Android smartphones. This data was provided by NortonLifeLock, and came from real-world devices running the Norton Mobile Security mobile antivirus.

The research team did their analysis with the help of sample of anonymized data from apps provided by NortonLifeLock which were installed on over 50 million Android phones. Each app was then put through the CreepRank algorithm and a creep score was calculated based on the amount of data/control abuse the app could harm the users.

The algorithm was applied on app data sets from 2017, 2018 and 2019 and from the resulting data, they were able to notify that Google about the 1,095 apps had creepware abilities.

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This is where more than 800 apps have scored low through the algorithm, forcing Google to remove them from the Play Store for violating its terms and conditions.

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  • Published Date: May 13, 2020 7:49 PM IST