Google wants to ban several apps containing spyware

Around March 25, several apps containing spyware were removed from Google Play Store.

Dozens of apps have been removed from Google Play Store after experts found spyware there to collect user data. It seems that this software was developed by a company linked to American security agencies, reports the wall street journal.

According to a report published on Friday 1er april by Joel Reardonresearcher at the University of Calgaryand Serge Egelmannresearcher atInternational Computer Science Institute from Berkeley, several apps on Google Play Store contained spyware. Among these applications are Speed ​​Camera Radar, Al-Moazim Lite (prayer times) and WiFi Mouse (remote control of a PC). Each of these apps has been downloaded over ten million times. Two other apps (QR & Barcode Scanner and Qibla Compass – Ramadan 2022) also contained spyware and were downloaded over five million times.

The society Measurement Systems S. de RL, based in Panama, has paid app developers to embed code developed by the company into their software. This process has allowed Measurement Systems to collect data from millions of users worldwide, according to the wall street journal.

Apps banned for illegally collecting user data can apply to re-enter the Google Play Store if the offending code is removed, a Google spokesperson said at Wall Street Journal.

According to Joel Reardon and Serge Egelman, Measurement Systems spyware was present in apps downloaded on at least 60 million devices. However, the software reportedly stopped collecting user data after the researchers announced their discovery.

Joel Reardon and Serge Egelman informed Google of the existence of spyware. The Internet giant was thus able to launch an investigation which resulted in the March 25 bans.

Through several corporate documents and an Internet domain registration, the wall street journal discovered that Measurement Systems was tied to a Virginia-based contractor and involved in cyber espionage for US security agencies. The Measurement Systems company denied being involved in any data collection operation and having ties to US defense companies.

App developer Al-Moazin Lite told the Wall Street Journal that the company was led to believe that Measurement Systems was collecting data on behalf of internet service companies, financial firms and energy companies. According to Serge Egelman, all of this highlights “the importance of not accepting treats from strangers. » Some applications using the software of Measurement Systems collected phone numbers, e-mail addresses or even GPS data, data that can be used to track a person’s movements. It is a potentially powerful tool for governments wishing to monitor and root out political dissidents.

Indeed, governments sometimes hire groups of hackers to harvest data from encrypted communication applications or to destabilize essential infrastructure or services. Russia is a major sponsor of hackingwhich poses a “serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” according to US Justice Department officials.

On March 24, the US Department of Justice charged four Russian government employees for targeting thousands of computers connected to the energy sector in approximately 135 countries, including the United States, between 2012 and 2018.

Some apps that previously contained Measuremet Systems spyware including Speed ​​Camera Radar, WiFi Mouse, QR & Barcode Scanner, Qibla Compass – Ramadan 2022, Simple weather & clock widget and Handcent Next SMS-Text w/ MMS are already back on Google Play Store.

Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Zachary Snowdon Smith

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