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Google Purges Spyware Apps from Play Store

Earlier this week, Google announced that it had removed seven apps from its Play Store. The apps, which were seemingly made by the same Russian developer, were legally used to spy on users. Called stalkerware, the apps would have allowed the user to call up someone’s voice log, view SMSs and IMs, read emails, and probably steal financial information. Although marketed as child safety apps, Google, together with Avast have considered them spyware and therefore, decided to remove them from the store.

Why would someone agree to be spied upon?

Long story, short: nobody would want to do that simply because they don’t even know that they’re being kept under watch. As today’s story goes, at the beginning of the week, Avast notified Google via email that seven applications belonging to a Russian developer are actually spyware in disguise. The recently removed apps are SMS Tracker, Employee Work Spy, Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free, Spy Kids Tracker, Mobile Tracking, and Phone Cell Tracking.

As their names suggest, these apps could have been installed on any Android device and used to keep tabs on that person. Of course, being a parent in an online world isn’t an easy task, many parents installing stalkerware on their children’s device to ensure that they don’t fall prey to online predators, but doing the same with your employees’ phones is a bit too much.

What’s even more daunting is the fact that these apps don’t leave ‘breadcrumbs’: they don’t have a home screen icon and don’t even show up in the installed apps logs. Yes, you too may have stalkerware installed on your smartphone or tablet and not be aware of it.

The good news is that Google systematically deleted the apps from Play Store at Avast’s bequest. It’s still bad news for people who actually use this type of software, thinking out loud that it’s the right thing to do. Anyway, as Avast noted, Spy Kids Tracker and its ilk allowed the ‘buyer’ to deploy powerful spying gadgets on someone’s Android-ready device.

To name just a few, we have the call log tracker, which allows you to see all inbound and outbound phone calls, SMS\email\IM viewer and tracker, and GPS tracking. There were even talks of a ‘premium’ version which, theoretically, unlocked more powerful surveillance features; apparently, the paid version of the apps allowed the user to actually read and grab messages in transit. It also worked with popular messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, and WhatsApp.

Wrap-up

Google ensured that the last stalkerware has been removed and that it will continue to monitor the Play Store for similar apps. What’s your take on using this type of software to spy on your kid or keep tabs on employees? Shoot me a comment.

About Daniel Sadler

Old-school PC gamer, poetry buff, cat lover, tech wiz. His writing career began almost two decades ago when he modestly acknowledged that hindsight or, lack thereof, can compromise security. He enjoys spending quality time with his friends and family. Most of his friends refer to Daniel as a "man of a few words, but, man, what words!" His interests include cybersecurity, IT, blogging, and, of course, everything related to technology.

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