As the recent study published by reliable sources claims, a number of Android apps have been extending their functionality, not to a user’s benefit. The study results inform us that the apps have a number of backdoors that collect information. We are still to find out whether all the actions performed by the apps behind closed doors are malicious. In many cases, this will be harmless observations. However, when the personal device is acting without the owners’ knowledge, it sets off some alarms.
Researching the issue
The research is yet to be structured and finalized. At the moment, the published data can only lead to suggestions. As an example, it showed that the apps are very attentive to the activity of other apps on the device. Currently, the harmful effect has not been proved. We may suggest though that it is done to collect the data on app usage. It also gives a clue about a person’s behavior and habits. Such suggestions were voiced by the Center for Information Security in Helmholtz.
An innovative research tool InputScope has been used to conduct the analysis of 150 000 apps from Google Play. The alternative 20 000 were taken for the same comparison, from Baidu. The aim of the study was to understand what percentage of apps are behaving in an undocumented way. Also, the potential scenarios of how the information they collect can be used were studied.
The results showed that 6.8% of the apps had an indication of backdoors and 5.3 % worked on worked with blacklists. It means that they were comparing the data on the user’s phone to the existing blacklists with the names of politicians, controversial events, etc. Another common feature discovered was that pre-installed apps were more likely to exhibit such behaviors.
A number of institutions have tried to tackle this issue. In January, Google received a letter from Privacy International. The letter voiced suspicion in surveillance activities. A similar study has been conducted in Spain.
All the studies and observations agree on one thing. The secretive, hidden behaviors that the apps exhibit carry a hazard for the users. Whether personal information theft or something more important, the users are yet to find. The fact is that the apps are collecting passwords, accessing blacklists and target certain contents.