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Japanese govt: Use operator-run app stores, not Google Play

Info-stealing sexy wallpaper app was downloaded 500,000 times on official site

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Google’s security credentials have taken another hit after the Japanese government warned local Android users to download their apps from third party operator-run stores, and not Google's own Play, following the discovery of a prolific info-stealing app on the official site.

The Tokyo-based Information Technology Promotion Agency (IPA) alerted domestic Android users last Friday that a rogue app named “sexy porn model wallpaper” had already been downloaded 500,000 times from Google Play before being spotted and removed.

The app, which promises “sexy fresh girls wallpaper”, works like many others of its kind by requesting user permission to access phone information including location details, email address and terminal information before sending it on to a third party server.

While not containing any malware, the app has no good reason to request access to such info, and effectively uses the “sexy girl” content to distract users while lifting this data in the background, said IPA.

The government-backed body warned users off Google Play and instead urged them to visit third party app stores run by mobile operators – such as KDDI’s “au Smart Path”, Docomo’s “D Market” and Softbank’s “Yahoo! Market” – saying that, “in these markets, operators carry out their own checks of the app”.

Google’s Android ecosystem has long been criticised for its lack of in-built security checks, although the Chocolate Factory responded to concerns by launching an app verification service for Google Play recently.

That said, its efficacy has been called into question by researchers, and the security vendor community is claiming threats will continue to snowball on the platform.

Trend Micro, for example, predicted recently that the number of malicious and high-risk Android apps would reach the one million mark this year. ®

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