Google Removed Over 700,000 Copycat, Malicious, and Inappropriate Apps from the Play Store in 2017
When people talk about the advantages of the Google Play Store compared to the iTunes App Store, they almost always bring up how quick and easy it is to get applications or games published. That’s partly because Google, unlike Apple, doesn’t rely on humans to individually test and approve every submission, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t various security checks that apps and games must pass through. In a 2017 retrospective on Tuesday, Google Play Product Manager Andrew Ahn revealed that the Play Store’s protection features were responsible for taking down over 700,000 apps that violated Google’s policies.
Mr. Ahn said that the Play Store team took down 70 percent more apps in 2017 than in 2016, and that 99 percent of those apps were “identified and rejected” before anyone could install them. The speedy review process owed to the fact that the Play Store uses machine learning models and automated scans to identify “abuse” such as impersonation, inappropriate content, and malware. Mr. Ahn said that thanks to “new detection models” and “techniques” that can “identify repeat offenders and abusive developer networks at scale”, Google was able to ban 100,000 bad developers and make it more difficult for those developers to create new accounts.
Mr. Ahn shared a few of the most common reasons Google took down applications or games from the Play Store in 2017. One was impersonation — keyword-targeted copycat apps and games from developers attempting to leverage the popularity of legitimate apps. They typically use confusable unicode characters or hide app icons in a different locale, but Google was able to flag and take down over 250,000 of them.
Another big category of offender Google saw in 2017 was apps and games with inappropriate content. Whether the content was in the form of pornography, extreme violence, hate, or illegal activities, Mr. Ahn said that the Play Store improved its machine learning models to filter for policy violations.
Finally, Mr. Ahn highlighted the ways that Google’s continued to improve detection of Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs) — applications that perpetrate SMS fraud, act as trojans, and steal personal information. We’ve talked about these apps and detection methods in the past, and the search giant says it was able to reduce annual PHA installs rates on Google Play by 50 percent year over year.
“Despite the new and enhanced detection capabilities that led to a record-high takedowns of bad apps and malicious developers, we know a few still manage to evade and trick our layers of defense,” said Mr. Ahn. “We take these extremely seriously, and will continue to innovate our capabilities to better detect and protect against abusive apps and the malicious actors behind them. We are committed to make Google Play the most trusted and safe app store in the world.”
Source: Android Developers Blog