Google Pulls Hundreds of Apps from the Play Store

There are a handful of trusted sources for app content for your mobile devices, but sometimes even these vetted sources can let a few bad “app”les slip through.

The recent launch of a new Android operating system shined a spotlight on hundreds of faulty and unintentionally malicious apps, leading Google to remove them from its Google Play Store.

There are a small number of operating systems that make your smartphone “smart.” Statistically—and in somewhat simplistic terms—if a smartphone isn’t made by Apple, there’s a very good chance that it’s powered by Android. The latest Android operating system, called Oreo, has just been launched. Within the first 24 hours of the launch, Google had removed around 500 apps, which had together been downloaded around 100 million times.

The reason why was in the way some apps now responded under Oreo. Basically, the specific design behind those apps left the door open for malicious plugins to be downloaded, affording outsiders the ability to spy on the user. Some of the apps that were affected included popular games, weather apps, internet radio, and other seemingly harmless content. This compatibility concern has already been remedied by Google, who issued updates to fix the matter.

At the heart of the problem is advertising. The design of the apps allowed for specific and agreed upon data gathering that allowed developers to make money off of advertising. Unfortunately, that same functionality is what hackers could exploit in order to steal information.

Obviously, it’s impossible to expect smartphone users to request the source code for every app they plan to download in order to analyze it for flaws. In this case, the more important consumer takeaway is the need to update your apps and other software routinely. When your settings icon displays an updated symbol or when your apps offer you the option to update—versus “upgrade,” which isn’t a security issue but is an optional functionality choice—it’s important to do so, even on the most basic game app. You might not know what issues that update is correcting, or what security flaw it can fix.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: A Closer Look at your Apps’ Permissions

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