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A survey of more than a million apps on the Google Play and iOS App Store has found that more than 40 percent of ‘risky mobile’ apps originate from the United States, reports The Guardian.
The report, published by mobile security firm Marble Labs found that 42.14 percent of “dangerous” apps come from American developers, followed by China with 17.69 percent, and India with 9.53 percent. Just 1.19 percent originated from the UK. “While China, Korea, India and Taiwan generate a great number of malicious and risky mobile apps, their combined total doesn’t amount to that of the United States,” claimed the report.
Marble labs define ‘risky’ as apps which were “either directly malicious, handled data insecurely or posed a potential privacy risk,” according to PC World.
One important caveat of the report’s results is that the research was carried out purely on Google and Apple’s official app marketplaces, and excluded apps that required rooted or jailbroken handsets. The report conceded that this could certainly impact the results, stating: “It is a commonly held belief that Chinese or Russian app developers are responsible for the majority of malicious and highly risky apps. While that may be true for malware that targets jailbroken iPhones or rooted Android mobile devices, when we looked at apps that are available on legitimate app stores for non-tampered devices, the story is very different.”
Marble Labs published a second table, ranking the “likelihood that an app from these countries is malicious or highly risky,” which provided a different insight based on the percentage of ‘risky’ mobile apps, rather than just the raw numbers. Here the figures were different with China topping the table (nine percent), followed by Taiwan (seven percent) and Singapore (four percent). The USA, at this point, dropped to just over one percent, emphasizing exactly how much app development goes on in the country.
David Harley, a Senior Research Fellow at ESET, expressed the importance of differentiating between app behaviors, stating, “‘malicious’ and ‘highly risky’ are far from synonymous: there are differences in impact between adware, banking-related malware, spyware that exfiltrates data, and badware that simply trashes systems and data.”
“While the proportion of ‘risky’ apps from the US seems unexpectedly high according to Marble’s data, the impact would be less dramatic if those apps were mostly adware/greyware while the apps that directly threatened data were concentrated in other regions,” he added.
Author Alan Martin, ESET