The Play Store has been identified as the largest distributor of malware according to a study conducted by NortonLifeLock (formerly Symantec) and the IMDEA Software Institute. Researchers from the two organisation dug into 7.9 million app installs on more than 12 million android devices. The study was held over a four-month period between June and September 2019 and the data revealed that between 10% and 24% of the apps they analyzed (from users running Norton or Symantec) could be classified as malicious or unwanted (adware).
Findings from the study revealed that 67% of the malicious software installs came from the Google Play Store. To get some sort of perspective, the researchers also looked at alternative markets and found that only 10% of the app installs from those places contained malware.
67% is pretty high but Google’s Play Store is still safe
It might be a bit of an oxymoron but the Play Store is still the safest place to get your Android apps. The reasoning behind this is based on proportions. If we look at the threat-to-legitimate app install (VDR in the table) the Play Store registers 0.6% but the alternative or third party stores come in at 3.2%. Which means you are more likely to install malware if you download it from an alt market than from the Play Store.
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The researchers also outlined that the reason why there is such a large proportion of malware on the Play Store is that it’s the biggest platform. There are more people getting applications on it so it offers malware developers visibility, reputation and trust.
Other sources of malware identified were:
- APK files shared via instant messaging apps
- Bloatware that comes preinstalled on devices
- Pay-per-install services
- File Sharing services
- Web browsers
- File managers
- Instant messaging apps
How you can protect your device
The best preventitive measure is to install an antivirus on your mobile device(s). Here is a list of some that you should consider if you haven’t got one already:
If you want to read the full study you can do so with the link below: