Google removes fraudulent Android apps

Apps part of "RuFraud" scam which tricked mobile users into sending premium text messages and latest batch to be removed by Google, which already pulled several infected apps this year.

Google has removed 22 apps containing fradulent software from its Android Market appstore which had posed as popular third-party software, such as Angry Birds and Sim City, and tricked users into sending premium text messages. 

According to a BBC report, San Francisco-based mobile security company, Lookout, said it informed Google about the apps and later identified five more in the appstore. The "RuFraud" scam, which originated from Russia, tricked users into believing they were about to download a game or program when instead, they had actually given their phone "permission" to send a text message which cost £3 (US$4.65).

Lookout further added that at least 14,000 of such apps had been downloaded, with affected users primarily from Europe. It told BBC attacks of such nature had increased over the past few months.

Unlike the Apple App Store and Windows Phone Marketplace, apps on Android Market are uploaded without first going through an approval process. Android developers, however, are required to observe terms and conditions in Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement.

Google had said in a previous ZDNet Asia report that it would remove apps that violated the agreement and policies such as those that contained inppropriate content or malware. It added that abusive developers that repeatedly violated these policies could also be blocked from using the Android Market.

Security experts had called for Google to scan its appstore for malicious apps and malware to better protect Android users, describing it as the most heavily targeted mobile platform.

Google this year already removed several fraudulant apps including over 50 in March, which contained the DroidDream malware that prompted infected phones to send out sensitive data to a command server, and another couple of dozens in June which again contained what seemed to be stripped down versions of the DroidDream malware.

Citing David Emm, a security research at Kaspersky Labs, the BBC said Google needed to put in more effort to filter out harmful application in their store. "The flexibility of the Android Market is great, but that comes at a potential price to security," Emm said. "It will als become a potentially bigger problem in the future. Android's market share is going up, and so is the number of malware-infected mobile software."

He warned that existing vulnerabilities in Android apps would lead to larger breaches on Google network. The Android market is attached to users' Gmail accounts, he said, and if the Market account is hacked, it "adds another security problem".

Android Market last week exceeded 10 billion apps downloads since the appstore was launched three years ago. It currently clocks 1 billion app downloads per month, according to Google.