Symantec Critical Of Google Play For Malicious Pornographic Android Apps


A series of potentially malicious mobile porn applications that gained approval on the Google Play store have been quickly removed by Google, but not before being downloaded up to 1.5 million times and receiving criticism from security experts.

Symantec said the potentially malicious porn applications, "Porn Sexy Models Wallpaper," "Porn Sexy Girls Live Wallpaper" and "Sexy Girls Ass Live Wallpaper," produced by the same app developer, create a new shortcut under the phone's application settings. When the application is launched, the app initializes to a remote server, where details about the device are collected, wrote Lionel Payet, a security response manager on Symantec's research blog.

The app collects the device owner's Google email address, GPS coordinates, IMEI number on the device itself and the network operator information, according to Payet. The app then collects additional data and serves up the first gallery image with a small advertisement and a throng of targeted porn ads in the background, Payet said.

[Related: Kaspersky: SMS Trojans Account For Over Half Of Smartphone Malware]

Payet said the app circumvented Google's guidelines, which restrict links to pornography, obscenity, nudity or sexual activity. The guidelines do "not prevent developers from finding ways to circumvent controls either by distributing their apps through other channels or by hiding their true content," he wrote. "The pictures displayed on the Google Play page are acceptable and their description too. But once you browse the wallpapers within the apps, you will find a complete set of pornographic pictures."

Symantec has warned about questionable Android mobile applications that have managed to gain approval on the official Google Play store. Phony free versions of popular games function as adware and could pose a security threat, Symantec warns.

Security experts say the potential for more nefarious applications exists on third-party app stores. So far, most of the serious mobile security threats have been SMS Trojans, which attempt to rack up premium text message charges. Nearly all of the attacks are outside of the United States.

A Google spokesperson said the company had no comment. "We don't comment on individual apps, we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies."

Symantec said the apps have been removed from Google Play, but mobile users are advised to download a security software app. Symantec's Norton Mobile Security and several other mobile antivirus apps detect malicious apps and warn the user of the potential risk.

PUBLISHED JAN. 8, 2013