All Android end users go to Google Play Store to replenish their stock of free apps designed to attend every need and whim. But how many of these apps are truly saafe and open towards those users who download them?
Luigi Vigneri and his team examined over 2000 free Android apps downloaded from the Google Play Store and compiled their findings in a paper titled „Taming the Android AppStore: Lightweight Characterization of Android Applications”, which is currently hosted on the ArXiv.org website and detailed in an MIT Technology Review.
Google Play Store seems to be a lightweight monitoring agency for the apps that make it, as opposed to the Apple store where only well analyzed applications make their way. The apps found in the Play Store powered by Google differ in quality of course, but only those which are openly malicious are barred from joining the ranks.
Vigneri and his Eurecom team found that thousands of free Android apps are sharing user data via connecting with both advertising and tracking sites.
To perform their research they selected over 2000 free Android apps covering all the 25 categories available in Google Play Store in order to have a viable sample size selection. They then run the apps on a Samsung Galaxy SIII which is functioning on Android 4.1.2. The results showed that the apps connected with a total of 250,000 URLs from around the world. At the same time, it was stated that Google has 90 percent of the ad-related domains accessed by these apps.
It was said that the research results are not meant to deter Android users from using Play Store apps, but to shed some light into what they are signing up for. Many of the users are in the dark as to their data being shared via these apps with more than 250,000 URLs across the globe.
To counter these suspicious activities and provide end users with more confidence in the Android apps they are using, Vigneri and their team are now developing another application called NoSuchApp which is designed to monitor outgoing trafficking and announcing the user of which URLs the apps could be sharing data with.
“With this application, our goal is to provide a mechanism for end users to be aware of the network activity of their installed Android applications,” say Vigneri and co.
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