Which are the most dangerous mobile app stores online?

An interesting report published by RiskIQ on 2019 Mobile App Threat Landscape, lists the most dangerous mobile app store online.

Mobile users downloaded over 200 billion apps in 2019 and the overall expense in app stores worldwide has been estimated in more than $120 billion.

Threat actors don’t want to miss this amazing business opportunity and are using rogue apps that mimic well-known brands and are used for malicious purposes, including phishing and malware campaigns.

In some cases, rogue apps also appeared in official stores, bypassing security checks implemented by the Google Play and the Apple App stores.

There are hundreds of less reputable app stores that compose the mobile underworld, many of them are hosted in countries known for cybercrime, including China, or outside of stores altogether on the open web (often referred to as feral apps),

RiskIQ scans nearly two billion resources on a daily base to look for mobile apps in the wild, its report gives a snapshot of 2019’s mobile threat landscape and shows emerging trends.

Giving a close look at the report we can observe that 9Game.com, a portal that offers for downloading free Android games, was the app store hosting the largest number of malicious apps in 2019.

Of course, the Play Store didn’t rank in the top 5 app stores with the highest concentration of malicious apps.

“Some app stores are more dangerous than others and have a higher concentration of malicious apps.” reads the report published by RiskIQ. “In 2019, these were the stores from which you were most likely to download a malicious app:

9Game.comFeral appsVmallAppsXiaomiZhushou“

According to the report, Apple’s App Store is more secure thanks to the checks implemented by the company that are able to detect malicious apps.

“Apple treats its App Store like Fort Knox and rarely hosts dangerous apps. Meanwhile, Google’s security controls are improving despite allowing troublesome apps to enter the Play Store at a rate it finds acceptable—the number of blacklisted apps in the Play store dropped an impressive 76.4% in 2019.” reads the report published by the company.

The good news is that the overall number of malicious apps observed globally in 2019 dropped 20%, from 213,279 in 2018 to 170,796.

The most prolific country for the development of new apps, both clean and malicious, is China, the top 3 mobile app stores in 2019 in terms of new app uploads were all from China (APK GK (1,687,757 new apps), APK Pure (890,479 new apps), and Android Apps APK (809,818 new apps)).

Google (714,678 new apps) and Apple (465,676 new apps) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

“This hidden mobile threat landscape is a branding and consumer trust nightmare for businesses. Whether they have an official mobile presence or not, brands must be aware of this mobile app landscape to understand the entirety of their mobile attack surface.” concludes RiskIQ. “Monitoring primary stores like the Apple App Store and Google Play is important. Still, also having visibility into apps in lesser-known app stores across the world—and across the web—is paramount.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, app stores)

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