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Trend Micro Backs Off Bogus “Malware-in-Google-Play-Apps” Claim

July 28, 2014 - Written By Syed Sofian Rabbani

Trend Micro is a big name in the anti-malware industry and hence a claim from which the company needs to back-track becomes news. Some time ago, Trend Micro had released a research white paper titled “Fake Apps – Feigning Legitimacy” in which the company had made some serious and damaging allegations against Android apps in general and those on Google Play in particular. An introductory excerpt from the whitepaper is quoted as follows, “A survey of the top 50 free apps available for download in Google Play revealed that almost 80% of the samples had fake versions (…). These apps span a wide range of categories in Google Play, including Business, Media & Video, and Games.”

The damaging report further goes on to claim that all 100% of apps in “Widgets, Media & Video and Finance”; 90% of apps in “Business, Music & Audio and Weather” whereas 70% of apps in “Games, Books & Reference and Live Wallpaper” have fake versions available in the Google Play store. The report claims that 51% of these fake apps were malicious which could potentially steal valuable information, or rack up your phone bills by texting or calling premium numbers. The implications and ramifications of this report are manifold, however the most crucial aspect is the implication that Google is unable to monitor and control malicious content on Google Play, which puts millions of Android users at risk.

The Trend Micro report was challenged by an Android enthusiast, Jack Wallen who writes for Tech Republic. Wallen tested the claims made by Trend Micro using the company’s Android security app – Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus along with Malwarebytes. Wallen says that he found no evidence of any malware apps on Google Play, which he also attributed to having done something incorrectly on his part. The next logical step was for Wallen to submit his findings to Trend Micro, which resulted in Trend Micro having to eat their own words for breakfast.

Trend Micro responded by saying that, “Our research isn’t saying that this problem exists exclusively on Google Play because the majority of these problem apps are available in places other than Google Play. We are now aware that this point wasn’t presented in a clear enough manner, and based on that feedback we have updated our blog with the following: Note that the fake apps samples we gathered are from third party sources and none was found in Google Play. The point of our research, in fact, is to highlight the risks around apps found in apps from sources other than Google Play.”

The response is still open ended as the company now claims that apps downloaded from other sources, the Amazon AppStore for instance, are potential malwares. We don’t think that would sit too well with Amazon. Either ways, you be the judge, after such a big gaffe, would you ever believe any Trend Micro app which says “No Malware Found”? Do let us know in the comments below.