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Google Removes Apps that Stole Passwords

Google is working on pulling Android apps that commit major privacy violations. The company has removed nine apps from the Play Store after Dr Web analysts discovered they were trojans stealing Facebook login details. These weren’t obscure titles; the malware had over 5.8 million combined downloads and posed as easy-to-find titles like Horoscope Daily and Rubbish Cleaner.

The apps tricked users by loading the real Facebook sign-in page, only to load JavaScript from a command and control server to hijack credentials and pass them along to the app. They would also steal cookies from the authorization session. Facebook was the target in each case, but the creators could just have easily steered users toward other internet services.

There were five malware variants in the mix, but all of them used the same JavaScript code and configuration file formats to swipe information. Google said it banned all the app developers from the store, although that might not be much of a deterrent when the perpetrators can likely create new developer accounts. The company may need to screen for the malware itself to keep the attackers out.

Google largely automated screening keeps a lot of malware out of the Play Store, but the subtlety of the technique might have helped the rogue apps slip past these defences and leave victims unaware that their Facebook data fell into the wrong hands. Whatever the cause, it’s safe to say that you should be cautious about downloading utilities from unknown developers no matter how popular they seem. To trick users, the trojan apps would provide full functionality of their services and take away in-app ads if the users logged into their Facebook account via the application.

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