Avast researchers found on Google Play several surveillance applications

Avast specialists discovered seven spyware applications for ordinary users (the so-called stalkerware) in the Google Play directory.

Although these products regularly removed from the catalog, as the rules of Google Play strictly prohibit the distribution of such solutions, many of them manage still to gain thousands of installations. Such issue occurred in this case: discovered by the researchers means of everyday espionage were installed more than 130,000 times.

Stalkerware usually refers to applications that a person can install on a device of his spouse or partner, boss can downlaod on mobile gadgets of his employees, and parents on children’s devices. Such products help secretly tracking location, viewed web pages, messages, call history and much more. Worse, such products are often openly focused on initiators of domestic violence.

Read also: Trojan for Android masked under an update for OpenGL ES

The applications found by the specialists were downloaded to Google Play by a Russian developer and featured in the catalog under the names: Spy Free, Spy Kids Tracker, Phone Cell Tracker, Mobile Tracking, Spy Tracker, SMS Tracker, and also Employee Work Spy.

At the end of last week, Google’s engineers have already removed the aforementioned spyware solutions, but now researchers have reported that they have discovered another spyware application, which, in their opinion, has even the worst functionality.

Family Employee Monitor positions itself as an app for parents and employers, and has already been downloaded more than 10,000 times. It is able to follow the actions of the user in social networks, including Facebook, Messenger, Kik, Skype, Hangouts and other chat platforms.

Nikolaos Chrysaidos
Nikolaos Chrysaidos

“Applications such as Family Employee Monitor are extremely aggressive for the end-user victim and should not appear in mobile app stores. They are advertised as intended for parents and employers, but there is a very fine line in their use: applications with such capabilities can fall into the hands of inadequate people. We are working with Google to remove such applications, not only because their capabilities clearly violate the antispyware policies of Android, but also for security and ethical reasons”, – says Nikolaos Chrysaidos, head of Avast threat and protection research for mobile devices.

In addition, another “dark practice” was noticed related to the spyware Netiquette. To register and use the app for free, users must leave a 4- or 5-star review. Moreover, this review should contain specific words related to cyber bullying and protecting children from it.

Currently, Avast experts have already contacted Google, but for now, these applications are still available for download.
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About Daniel Zimmermann

Daniel Zimmermann has been writing on security and malware subjects for many years and has been working in the security industry for over 10 years. Daniel was educated at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany and currently lives in New York.

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