Google putting an anti virus scanner for Android in play

Google is eager to improve security on its Android app marketplace, and the company is now allegedly  working on a new technology framework designed to scan apps on Android-based devices and check if they include malware, adware, spyware or other kind of malicious code.

The “Google Android antivirus” news surfaced from the teardown of the new Google Play Store app (version 3.9.16): the .apk package contains strings referring to the couple of components that should form the antimalware framework, ie an “app check” to test all the apps already installed on the device and the an “app blocker” to actively control downloads in search for malicious and/or harmful code.

Speculations suggest that the client-side antivirus API could work in tandem with Bouncer, the server-side, automated monitoring service created by Google to block spreading of malicious apps within the Play marketplace. It this regard, Google will surely benefit from the recent acquisition of on-line antimalware service VirusTotal.

If the Play antivirus speculations proved to be true, Google would have a perfect timing in working on the new Android API: the security situation on the mobile OS marketplace is deteriorating quickly, so much that even the FBI-backed Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recently issued an Intelligence Note warning users against the latest waves of “malware attacking” Android devices including the information-stealing Loozfon and the uber-spyware and spying agent FinFisher.

Source: ZDNet

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19 Comments

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KSib said,
Are apps not scanned when developers upload them?

Yes, that's what "Bouncer" mentioned in the article does. The news here is that Google is apparently adding a client side component as well. This may seem redundant and indeed if you only ever install apps from the market it may largely be (though you could still get hit by browser exploits, email attachments, and the like) but keep in mind that Google is not a "walled garden" like Windows Phone or iOS and you can install apps from anywhere (if you change that setting). This would allow them to scan for malware from sources other than the Google store.

Asmodai said,

Yes, that's what "Bouncer" mentioned in the article does. The news here is that Google is apparently adding a client side component as well. This may seem redundant and indeed if you only ever install apps from the market it may largely be (though you could still get hit by browser exploits, email attachments, and the like) but keep in mind that Google is not a "walled garden" like Windows Phone or iOS and you can install apps from anywhere (if you change that setting). This would allow them to scan for malware from sources other than the Google store.

This "Bouncer" still lets apps get into the Play Store, compared to iOS and WP.... Android is getting hit by malware as it where (using the comparison) the mid-90's with OSX vs Windows in terms of malware.(Android being Windows, just stating the obvious )

MidTxWRX said,
So now it's ok for google to go through my apps? That's invasion of privacy!

Google is scanning the App itself and not the userdata and configuration of your device. So no privacy invaded. In fact, it would be pretty useless to scan your confidential appdata since it can't contain a virus.

Don't worry. Google will casually look at your data and archive it for future use... Remember the MapCar IP packet capturing many years ago..

MidTxWRX said,
So now it's ok for google to go through my apps? That's invasion of privacy!

rippleman said,
odd how some stupid people are not crying "google is going through my apps invading my privacy"...

The person you are looking for is right below my comment

still1 said,

The person you are looking for is right below my comment

Who me? I think you mean the guy right below my comment.

CJ33 said,

Who me? I think you mean the guy right below my comment.

No, I think both of you are looking for the person below my comment.

You just did the WAH WAH WAH! You are looking for yourself! MUHAHAHA

rippleman said,
odd how some stupid people are not crying "google is going through my apps invading my privacy"...

Do other app platforms suffer from this or just a Google problem ?

iOS for example, early days for Windows but that may be a target soon enough. Anything they do differently that doesn't leave them open as Google seem to be?

WooHoo!!! said,
Do other app platforms suffer from this or just a Google problem ?
iOS for example, early days for Windows but that may be a target soon enough.

No system is immune to viruses...

WooHoo!!! said,
Do other app platforms suffer from this or just a Google problem ?

iOS for example, early days for Windows but that may be a target soon enough. Anything they do differently that doesn't leave them open as Google seem to be?

On mobile hackers/scammers tend to employ different techniques than PC's, relying mostly on web based scams since the web is on offer on all devices (iOS, Droid, WP, PC's) and can't actually be "virus scanned" as such.

Since you can actually use the android platform in a much richer dev environment than any of the other platforms some people have attempted to exploit this. Reality is though, unless you install apps from unknown sources (and check the box to allow this) then you are going to be fine.

Most malicious apps are "fake" apps pretending to be others or edited versions of pirated paid apps. I have never contracted a "virus" on android and I'd say you would have to be pretty stupid doing some dumb stuff to actually get an app virus. Web scams are different tho, as are exploits of the android OS, technically iOS gets "hacked" every time someone jailbreaks it. That online jailbreak surprised me. So much potential to hack the device to shreds

Auzeras said,
Most malicious apps are "fake" apps pretending to be others or edited versions of pirated paid apps. I have never contracted a "virus" on android and I'd say you would have to be pretty stupid doing some dumb stuff to actually get an app virus.

I've always said this about viruses on Windows. To this day, I don't understand how people fall for some of the viruses out there, or how they even get them in the first place. I dont even use a live monitoring antivirus.

Auzeras said,

Since you can actually use the android platform in a much richer dev environment than any of the other platforms some people have attempted to exploit this. Reality is though, unless you install apps from unknown sources (and check the box to allow this) then you are going to be fine.

Not to spoil your fun, but there have also been numerous malicious apps in the Play Store itself.
Also Android has not been invulnerable to drive-by's.

And even today, Android 2.3 devices are still being sold.

But you're _just_ as safe on the average Android device as you are on the average iOS or WP7/8 device.

pjak said,

No system is immune to viruses...

Nope, and sadly Linux and OS X has failed users by letting them think their OS was more secure based on technology, when it was obscurity.

As for 'immune' to Viruses, there is no such thing; however, to lump Android in the same pool as Windows Phone is like comparing the safety of Gold laying in the street unattended, versus Gold in a Bank Vault.

There is a reason WP7 has extensive malware checking in the approval process server side, and secured installation of software on the client and Application Isolation technologies that even if a User was dumb and wanted to let an App have full access to everything, it still can only touch a few items exposed by the OS, and can't dial the phone, or send texts or touch the OS or touch other applications.

As for the 'richer' environment comment above. There isn't a richer environment than Windows 7 on the desktop, nor one more widely in use, yet malware and security exploits has been lower than OS X and even Linux in the last 3 years. **

** In case you find this to sound like hyperbole, go ask any of the Hacking groups what servers they bot when they need 10000 systems trying to poke holes in a company's security.

You could also look up security reports. The number of rooted Linux servers and routers/switches alone is mind numbing.

WooHoo!!! said,
Do other app platforms suffer from this or just a Google problem ?

iOS for example, early days for Windows but that may be a target soon enough. Anything they do differently that doesn't leave them open as Google seem to be?

Windows Phone can't get any viruses. Apps are completely sandboxed, and they have no access to the device.