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Two apps from tech-giant Baidu got down temporarily from the Google Play Store after collecting sensitive user data without consent.

Palo Alto Networks is the network security firm behind the discovery. They contacted both Google and Baidu right when they found out about the “unspecified violations.

Here’s what we know.


Baidu Apps Retired from Google Play Store

If you have been asking: “which Android apps got retired from the Play Store?” then here’s your answer: They were “Maps” and “Search Box.”

These two are owned and managed by the Chinese corporation (Baidu). 

This is the data collected by the apps: 

  • Phone model
  • Screen resolution 
  • Phone MAC address 
  • Carrier (Telecom Provider) 
  • Network (Wi-Fi, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) 
  • Android ID 
  • IMSI number 
  • International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number 

This is not the first time a Chinese-owned App gets heavily hit after getting caught collecting sensitive data. Among the biggest/worst scandals, we can find TikTok battle’s with the US government. But we talked about that before.

Suggested Article: Top 3 TikTok’s Dangerous Threats of All-Time

Safer versions of Baidu’s Search Box and Maps are now up and running on the Google Play Store, but they remained unavailable for a considerable long time (while they were getting “fixed”). The same happened to Homestyler.

What we know so far, is that a learning-based algorithm was needed to detect malicious spyware traffic coming from Baidu’s Push SDK and ShareSDK (also from Chinese vendor MobTech). The latter was supporting +30,000 apps.

Among those, there were included around forty social media platforms.

And while Google is good at taking action against malicious apps from bad actors, they (hackers) still find ways to infiltrate inside the marketplace.

We have seen it happening over and over this year. A set of fake Minecraft Mods containing malware was recently reported by the MyITGuy team of experts.

NortonLifeLock mentioned this problem in particular in their academic study published in November. The primary point was the platform’s wide popularity.

In short terms: they found that about 67.5% of malware comes from Android devices. This number came from the analysis of 12 million installations over four months (from June to September).

However, only a 0.6% ratio of unwanted apps was considered, way under the 3.2% of alternative third-party app stores.

The researchers said:

“Thus, the Play market defenses against unwanted apps work, but still significant amounts of unwanted apps can bypass them, making it the main distribution vector for unwanted apps.”

Today’s lesson: no app can be taken for granted (not even those from legit 3rd-party sources). And what can we all do to prevent this type of situation from happening?

While it’s impossible to close the leak holes permanently, developers need to put extra effort into the app reviews system…

For the marketplaces to reinforce the requested permissions… 

And for us, to put some thoughts on new apps we’ll install. Otherwise, you’ll have to suffer the consequences of being vulnerable to malicious trackability.

For that same reason, Palo Alto researchers concluded:

“In mobile devices, it is typical to ask a user to grant a list of permissions upon installation of an application or to prompt a user to allow or deny a permission while the application is running. Disallowing permissions can often result in a non-working application, which leads to a bad user experience and might tempt a user to click on ‘allow’ just to be able to use an application. Even if certain permission is granted, it is often up to the app developers whether it is used in accordance with the official guidelines.”