The Google Play Store is the main place where Android mobile users can browse, buy, and download apps. According to Google, it’s home to over 2 million apps and has earned developers over $120 billion since it launched in 2008.
With nearly 70% of mobile users on Android in January 2022, the Play Store is a big part of using the operating system. But recent concerns have cast doubt on the platform’s underlying security. What’s gone wrong? And how can users protect themselves?
Malware attacks from third-party apps
Researchers at Check Point found a vulnerability in the Google Play core library in late 2020. It could allow malware to enter users’ devices via third-party apps. Google patched the issue, but many developers continued to use the old version of the library. This put users’ data in harm’s way.
Comparitech research in mid-2020 found that 4.8% of apps made using Google’s Firebase development platform were storing user data insecurely. Unfortunately, 30% of all apps at the time used the platform. This puts user privacy at risk, as third parties could access sensitive data like email addresses and phone numbers without a password.
2021 insights from Avast showed that up to 19,000 Android apps could leak user data. Firebase developers were again at fault. The risk of data leaks occurred when app owners failed to properly configure their Firebase databases. The apps affected spanned all genres, and users worldwide downloaded them. The data leaks included names, locations, addresses, and passwords.
How can you avoid risks when using the Google Play Store?
Google is quick at patching issues found on the Play Store. But the number and frequency of problems mean Android users must take steps to protect their phones.
First, it’s good to invest in a virtual private network subscription. You can prevent malware, trackers, and ads from stealing your data by utilising a VPN for Android. Some also feature in-built antivirus features that work without logging in.
Second, it’s important to scrutinise any apps you are considering downloading. Google’s Play Store is a gigantic bank of apps. This is partly due to reduced upload restrictions compared to peers like Apple’s App Store. In essence, there’s a much lower bar to entry, which means far more bogus apps to watch out for.
Avoid apps with malware by checking reviews, searching the developer, and thinking about the quality of the listing.
What do you think of the Google Play Store? Let us know in the comments section.