July 6, 2022

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Google pulls Android apps that collected information from hundreds of thousands of customers

Google has eliminated dozens of apps utilized by hundreds of thousands of customers after discovering they had been secretly harvesting information, The Wall Road Journal reported. Researchers have discovered climate apps, velocity digicam apps, QR scanners, prayer apps and others containing code that would harvest an individual’s exact location, electronic mail, cellphone numbers. consumer and extra. It was made by Measurement Methods, an organization believed to be tied to a Virginia protection contractor that does cyber intelligence and extra for US nationwide safety businesses. He denied the allegations.

The code was found by researchers Serge Egelman of UC Berkeley and Joel Reardon of the College of Calgary, who disclosed their findings to federal regulators and Google. It could “undoubtedly be described as malware,” Egelman informed the WSJ.

Measurement Methods reportedly paid builders so as to add their software program growth kits (SDKs) to functions. Builders wouldn’t solely be paid, however would obtain detailed details about their consumer base. The SDK was current on apps downloaded on not less than 60 million cell gadgets. An app developer mentioned he was informed the code collects information on behalf of ISPs in addition to monetary providers and vitality firms. Measurement Methods additionally mentioned it wished information primarily from the Center East, Central and Jap Europe and Asia.

“A database mapping an individual’s actual electronic mail and cellphone quantity to their exact GPS location historical past is especially horrifying as a result of it may simply be used to run a service to search for location historical past. of an individual just by figuring out their cellphone quantity or electronic mail, which may very well be used to focus on journalists, dissidents or political rivals,” Reardon informed the AppCensus analysis weblog.

Though Google eliminated these apps from the Play Retailer, researchers famous that they nonetheless exist on hundreds of thousands of gadgets. On the similar time, they found that the SDK stopped amassing consumer information after their findings got here to gentle.

The Measurement Methods area was registered by an organization referred to as Volstrom Holdings Inc., which offers with the federal authorities by a subsidiary referred to as Packet Forensics LLC. An organization referred to as Measurement Methods S of RL “additionally listed two holding firms as administrators, each of which share an tackle in Sterling, Va., with people affiliated with Volstrom,” the WSJ Famous.

In an announcement, Measurement Methods informed the WSJ by e-mail that “the allegations you’re making concerning the firm’s actions are false. Additional, we aren’t conscious of any connection between our firm and any US protection contractors and we aren’t conscious of … an organization referred to as Vostrom. We additionally don’t know what Packet Forensics is or the way it pertains to our firm.”

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