Google has removed 29 beauty or photo enhancing apps from the Play Store for violating its regulations that include stealing of user data or to spam the users with ads. While the move needs to be lauded, what is still worrisome is the fact that such apps still could make their way to the Google Play Store even after the same was supposedly fortified by stringent security measures.
Also, Google got into the act only after the said apps managed to go for hundreds of thousands of downloads. At least 11 of the 29 apps have gone for more than 100k downloads while three of the apps went for million-plus downloads. That translates to a lot of users who have either been spammed or have their security comprised even though they had followed the standard procedure of downloading apps only from the Play Store.
The malicious nature of the apps manifested from the way some started showing full-screen ads after the phone started or during usage at other times. What is even more disgusting is that the ads often showed porn content as well. Then some of the apps tended to lure users to phishing sites that would target stealing the personal info of the users.
That the apps had to do with digitally enhancing the user’s photos only made it easier to steal such photos as well. One way those worked is that the contentious apps would ask the user to upload the image to apply any filter that the user might have chosen. However, the app would often steal such images by saving a copy of those in an external server.
In some cases, the apps would also trick users into updating the applications by sending false notices about an impending update being available. Clicking on those often led users to fraudulent or phishing websites.
Also, the app managed to evade the usual Google restrictions by using packers that prevented analysis. That is not all as the remote servers too were guarded behind a secure layer of strong encryptions. Such apps also exhibited fishy nature as those often were hidden from view in the app list and were hence not possible to uninstall as well.
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Users would be glad those have finally been removed from the Play Store though let’s hope there aren’t any of its ilk still surviving in the app store.