Google has removed over 800 creepware apps from the Play Store. These apps often work very cunning and, for example, send your personal data abroad. How do you recognize them? And how do you prevent this? This is all you need to know about creepware.
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Creepware on Android: everything you need to know
We call creepware Android apps that malicious parties can use to harass, stalk, spy or threaten people. This can take place directly or indirectly. Creepware is part of spyware and such apps are surprisingly subtle. However, the consequences are often a lot less subtle, but downright dangerous. It is not without reason that Google has already removed hundreds of these kinds of apps from the Play Store.
The best known example of creepware is probably FaceApp. This app takes a picture of your face and then makes you look older. FaceApp became incredibly popular in mid-2019 and many people shared the result of their metamorphosis on social media, including celebrities. After security researchers delved into the technology behind FaceApp, it became clear that the creepware app actually sent all kinds of data abroad.
Also read: FaceApp delivers hilarious “old” pictures, but in terms of privacy there is little to laugh about
How do you recognize creepware apps?
That is also the insidious thing about creepware: it is often not clear that you are dealing with these kinds of apps. Usually the true nature of the animal (the app) only emerges after expert investigation. For example, in May 2020, Google removed over 800 creepware apps from its store after scientists conducted thorough research. They even put together a real “creepware scanner” that could detect the infected programs.
However, you can take some precautions yourself. Many creepware apps, for example, do spoofing. For example, the malicious parties pretend to be a legitimate organization, but they call the wrong number. An example of phone spoofing is the well-known Microsoft trick. You will be called by a so-called customer service employee of the company who tells you that your computer has contracted a virus. In reality, the “helpful” Microsoft employee tries to take control of your PC.
Other creepware apps are guilty of stalking behavior. For example, a paper by the aforementioned scientists states that some programs on your behalf can send text messages to people in your contact list. Still other creepware apps allowed manuals for hacking other smartphones and electronic devices.
Removing creepware is easier said than done. After all, it is often not exactly clear which app does not really work best for you. If this is the case, the solution is simple: remove this application. If you have no idea which app might be creepware, it is best to make a reconstruction. Since when do weird things happen to your phone? Which app (s) did you download around that period?
Then it is important to determine the creepware app. You do this, for example, by searching information about these programs on Google. In particular, be aware of not so well-known programs: you can assume that popular apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram do not contain creepware. Therefore, be extra critical of applications with only a few hundred / thousand downloads.
Google is doing its best to make the Play Store as safe as possible, but complete security cannot be provided. That is why every now and then an app with creepware flies under the radar. You have undoubtedly heard the most important tip to prevent that kind of crap from ending up on your smartphone: always use your common sense.
When downloading and installing apps, pay attention to the provider of the app and whether the name matches the screenshots. Also take a look at the reviews of people who have downloaded the app. Creepware apps are (rightly) often rated very negatively. So be extremely wary of apps that mainly have 1 or 2 star reviews.
Secure your device
Do you want to know more about securing your device? Then check out our comprehensive Android security guide. It explains step-by-step how to make your device as safe as possible. We also pay attention to how you recognize, remove and prevent misery such as adware, fleeceware, malware, ransomware and Android viruses. Also sign up for our newsletter or download the Android Planet app for more security tips.