Google Project Zero Findings: Millions of Pre-Installed Apps Come with Malware

Also applies to new phones

What is worse than malware found in apps at Google’s Play store? Malware found in pre-installed apps on Android smartphones. This is what Google Project Zero Security Researcher Maddie Stone found out. In her team’s findings, malware found in pre-installed apps is more alarming as they can download other malware in the background and even take over the device remotely.

“If malware or security issues come as preinstalled apps, then the damage it can do is greater, and that’s why we need so much reviewing, auditing and analysis,” Stone said.

With Android being open source, hackers can easily slip in malware in preloaded apps that come on new devices. Google reports that at least 200 device manufacturers were found to have preinstalled malware, but did not disclose which brands are involved.

Going back to malware, Chamois and Triada are two key malware that is of great concern. The former can send various ad frauds, install background apps, download plugins and can even send premium-rate text messages, while the latter displays ads and installs apps in the background.

Given these findings, the best we can hope right now is for manufacturers to follow Google’s advice in screening all of their software.


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