A study conducted over two years has shown that dangerous applications remain an important issue in Android systems, although improvements in this area by Google should have improved user security. Researchers from the University of Sydney and the Data61 team of the Commonwealth Organization for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO) have developed an advanced application analysis system that relies on so-called convolutional neural networks to scan applications and identify similarities, including application icons.
The study found that dangerous applications often use icons that mimic popular games in an attempt to trick users into downloading them. The study also relies on using VirusTotal to perform anti-malware scans, and to detect the permissions contained in applications and third-party advertising libraries in an attempt to determine the damage they cause to installed devices. The result can almost explain the problem. Of the 1 million applications examined, nearly 50,000 have some resemblance to another more popular application in the Play Store.
Researchers say they can find 2,040 potentially counterfeit and shoddy applications containing malware in a group of 49,608 applications that are highly similar to one of the top 10,000 popular applications in the Google Play store. The study also found that 1565 potential counterfeit and shoddy applications had at least five more dangerous permission requirements than the original application, and that 1407 potential counterfeit applications had at least five additional third-party ad libraries.
On the other hand, the good news is that Google Play Store has taken 35% of apps labeled as dangerous off the shelf, probably because Google deleted them after it discovered potential threats. At the same time, 65% of apps labeled as dangerous still exist in the Google Play store. Although these results are certainly worrying, users themselves should pay more attention to the application before downloading. It is strongly recommended to check the icons, descriptions and user reviews of any application before downloading, as these can help determine whether an application poses a risk to Android devices.