Bitdefender has identified dozens of apps on the Google Play Store that conceal their presence after installation by changing their names and icons, before serving up ads. They also remove themselves from the recently used list of apps to better hide from the user.
Google has so far been ineffective in attempts to prevent fake and malicious apps from being available on the Play Store, and the impacts are often catastrophic to people whose personal and financial data are placed at risk by these attacks.
This places the burden of detection directly on the smartphone user – a task that few consumers are up to or even aware of the need for. A Google search can help point to ways that users can distinguish real from fake apps, but not through direct customer reviews or recommendations. Threat actors are incredibly adept at posting glowing reviews for their fraudulent and destructive apps. Even those who know how to conduct such searches may well balk at the effort required to actually conduct them.
And so it falls to Google to protect the integrity of its app store. Raise the bar on would-be Google Play Store apps by requiring attestation. There are tools for app attestation which can completely prevent apps from being cloned or modified, ensuring that only a genuine copy of the app is allowed to run and access data. In fact, some app developers are already using these tools to protect their apps but it may be in the interests of Google to require that such app attestation be in place for any app deployed on the Play Store.