In 2017 alone, Google blocked over 700,000 problematic Android apps from being available to users via its Google Play app store. According to a Google blog post published on Tuesday, the 700,000 figure represents a 70 percent increase over the number of bad apps the technology giant took down in 2016. Google also "developed new detection models and techniques that can identify repeat offenders and abusive developer networks at scale," something that Google claims resulted in preventing the distribution of software by 100,000 bad developers in 2017, and also stopped those involved from creating new accounts in an effort to publish new potentially-poisonous apps.

Considering that there estimated to be a total of about 3.5-million apps in Google's app store, a figure of 700,000 problematic apps means that approximately 1 out of every 6 apps being uploaded by developers is unacceptable. Furthermore, while the purged apps fall into several categories (as described below), the sheer number of bad apps and blocked developers should serve as a warning to everyone: Malicious parties are actively trying to get their apps onto your smartphone and/or tablet. Google may not catch ever single bad app, so stay vigilant.

(To learn how to identify if your device has been potentially compromised by a bad app, please see the article 14 Signs Your Smartphone or Tablet Has Been Hacked.)

What kinds of apps has Google been blocking and removing?

Here are some examples provided by Google:

Copycats

Copyats are apps that try to trick users into downloading and installing them by impersonating well-known apps; major apps get a lot of search traffic on particular keywords, so bad actors try to get people to install their apps by using similar names, sometimes with confusing, and sometimes nearly invisible, Unicode characters. Both Apple and Google have had to deal with many such applications, and sometimes they do slip by filters, and do become available for download.

In 2017, Google removed more than 250,000 such apps.

Objectionable Content

Google removed tens of thousands of apps that violated the its app store's Terms of Service by including various forms of violence, the promotion of hate, adult material, or illegal-activity-related material.

Potentially Harmful Applications

Google removed a significant number of uploaded apps that it believed were likely to perform malicious activities that outright harm Android users. Some such apps might have been designed, for example, to steal people's information and transmit it to criminals, commit financial fraud from infected devices, intercept and abuse incoming text messages, send bogus messages to people's contacts including phishing and other scam type messages, etc.

Here is the bottom line: There are many bad people -- probably a lot more than most people would have thought -- uploading bad things to Google Play. So, be careful when installing apps. Google may stop most problems, but if even a single poisonous app gets through the technology giant's filters it could certainly inflict serious damage. Make sure you run security software on your Android devices.

Published on: Feb 1, 2018