According to statistics provided by Andrew Ahn, Product Manager at Google, the company removed over 700,000 Android app from the Play Store last year.
In 2017, the Google team took down more than 700,000 apps that violated the Google Play policies, 70% more than the apps taken down in 2016. The company was also able to identify and reject the apps before they were installed on user device. This precaution was possible thanks to the “significant improvements” in the ability to detect abuse. Abusive behavior may be anything from impersonation to malware distribution. To avoid malicious activities, Google had to improve its machine learning models and techniques, Ahn said.
These new detection models are designed to identify repeat offenders and abusive developer networks. As a result of the advancements 100,000 suspicious developers were removed last year. In addition, it is now harder for threat actors to create new accounts and distribute bad apps to users.
Among the bad apps removed by Google are copycat apps, inappropriate content, and potentially harmful apps.
Thousands of Copycat Apps, Apps with Inappropriate Content and Potentially Harmful Apps Removed
Copycats are typically trying to trick users into installing them by impersonating popular apps. This is one of the most common violations encountered by Google. The reason for this is that popular names receive a lot of search traffic for particular keywords. Bad developers try to amass installs leveraging such traffic, Google said.
Inappropriate content is in fact any app that promotes such content – pornography, extreme violence, and other illegal activities. Thanks to the improved machine learning techniques, it is now easier to sift through the large amounts of incoming app submissions. It is also easier to flag them for potential violations. Tens of thousands of apps with inappropriate content were taken down last year as a result of such improved detection methods, in Ahn’s words.
Potentially harmful applications can harm user devices. These apps vary from SMS frau, Trojans, or phishing. Even though these apps are not as popular as the other two types, they pose a greater threat to Android users. Thus, Google is “investing heavily” in their detection.
Finding these bad apps is non-trivial as the malicious developers go the extra mile to make their app look as legitimate as possible, but with the launch of Google Play Protect in 2017, the annual PHA installs rates on Google Play was reduced by 50 percent year over year.