Google Play Store has reportedly removed 24 malware-filled apps that were harvesting data and sending back to the Chinese servers. The apps are said to belong to a single Chinese parent company that was using multiple developer accounts to distribute them in Google's app market. The apps were first noticed by the folks at VPN Pro who were looking for the various permissions that anti-virus apps ask Android users.
According to a blog post by VPN Pro, a Chinese company called Shenzhen HAWK, which is a subsidiary of TCL Corporation, was offering as many as 24 apps via Google Play Store with 382 million cumulative downloads. These apps asked for dangerous permissions and some were even containing malware and rogueware. Sophos says rogueware apps pretend to detect and fix problems, while also trying to convince you to pay money or even to add more malware.
Some of the apps being offered by Shenzhen HAWK include Weather Forecast with over 10 million downloads, Sound Recorder with over 100 million downloads, File Manager with 50 million downloads, Super Cleaner with over 100 million downloads, and Virus Cleaner 2019 with over 100 million downloads. You can see the full list at the end of the report.
“We take reports of security and privacy violations seriously,” Google told Forbes in a statement. “If we find behaviour that violates our policies, we take action.”
After Google's removal of the Shenzhen HAWK apps, TCL Corporation responded to VPN Pro that it was working with Google to understand the concerns of the company with its apps. The company also plans to conduct a security audit of its apps to put the customers at ease. Many of the apps offers by Shenzhen HAWK are preloaded on Alcatel and other phones sold by TCL Corporation.
If you have any of these apps installed on your phones, it would be best if you uninstall then right away.