Google creates the App Defense Alliance to guard against malware-laden Android apps
It almost seems like we have been writing more stories about malicious Android apps than ever before. Many of these play video ads in the background, sign up for premium services without the phone owner's knowledge, share personal information and more. And some of these apps have icons that disappear from the app drawer making them incredibly hard to uninstall. The majority of these apps are designed to generate revenue for the bad actor(s) behind them.
Yes, most of these apps were sourced from the Google Play Store which might have surprised a number of Android users. After all, Google runs a safety check on apps before they are downloaded. This feature, Google Play Protect, is also supposed to warn users if it has discovered a harmful app and remove any malware-laden apps it finds on an Android device. But a number of infected apps do make it through.
Google says that "fighting against bad actors in the ecosystem is a top priority." To prove this, Google announced today that it teaming up with mobile security firms ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium to create the App Defense Alliance. Google says that it picked these firms because of their past successes in finding potentially harmful apps, their dedication to improving the the Google ecosystem, and the recognition they have received from analysts.
By sharing information with each Alliance member, Google hopes to stay one step ahead of the bad actors
The main priority for the Alliance is to prevent bad apps from getting installed on users' devices. So Google will integrate its Google Play Protect detection system with the scanning engines used by the other Alliance members. Google says that this will "generate new app risk intelligence as apps are being queued to publish. Partners will analyze that dataset and act as another, vital set of eyes prior to an app going live on the Play Store." But the main question is whether these extra eyes will help to tighten things up in the Play Store. The partners look for Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs) both inside and outside the Play Store. By starting the Alliance, members will share their information with Google in a more timely fashion helping the members detect malware earlier than before.
Google says that by working as a team to share information with each other, the App Defense Alliance will help secure Android from attacks around the world. The company adds that it is the best way for it to stay one step ahead of the bad actors and keep malware out of the Google Play Store. The Alliance even has a mission statement that reads, "Our number one goal as partners is to ensure the safety of the Google Play Store, quickly finding potentially harmful applications and stopping them before they ever make it onto Google Play."
As we've pointed out before, one of the best ways to avoid loading malware on your Android device is to look at the comments section on an app's Google Play Store listing. You'll be surprised at how many times an app full of malware is outed by a poor review. For example, take this review for an app that contained adware: "I thought I'd try this app by downloading it and that was a nightmare, couldn't find it in my apps nowhere and then the app just started running ads flashing them on and off, couldn't make them stop until I restarted it, then had to go back to Play Store just to find it again and I'm deleting it." Check out the comments section before installing an app from an unknown developer and you might save yourself a headache.
As we mentioned, some of these malicious apps are designed to disappear from the app drawer after installation and sometimes a factory reset is the only option available to get rid of a particularly pesky piece of malware. But late last month, we told you about malware that re-installs itself even following a factory reset. Hopefully, as Google says, the creation of the App Defense Alliance will keep Android users one step ahead of the bad guys.