User Privacy at Stake: Spyware Disguised as Utility Apps on Google Play Store

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July 10, 2023

A shocking revelation has been made concerning two file management applications on the Google Play Store, identified as surreptitious spyware. This finding jeopardizes the confidentiality and safety of approximately 1.5 million Android users as these applications behave dishonestly, secretly transmitting sensitive user data to untrustworthy servers based in China.

Mobile security frontrunner, Pradeo, has brought to light this disturbing infiltration. According to the report, the implicated spyware apps are File Recovery and Data Recovery (, boasting over 1 million downloads, and File Manager (, with over half a million downloads. The same group has developed both and employs similar covert tactics, initiating themselves automatically after the device restarts, with no user intervention required.

In stark contrast to their assurances on the Google Play Store that they do not gather user data, the analysis engine of Pradeo has found these apps secretly accumulate various personal details without the user’s knowledge. The stolen data includes contact lists, media files such as images, audio, and videos, real-time location, mobile country code, network provider details, SIM provider network code, operating system version, and even device make and model details.

Also Read: “Twitter Contemplates Legal Suit Against Meta Over Threads App”

Spyware Disguised as Utility Apps on Google Play Store

The magnitude of data transported by these spyware applications is especially alarming. Each app conducts over a hundred transmissions, an exceptionally high amount for nefarious activities. After collection, the data is dispatched to numerous servers located in China, considered malicious by cybersecurity specialists.

Furthermore, these spyware applications’ creators have adopted cunning techniques to project an air of legitimacy and make uninstallation difficult. The number of app downloads has been artificially inflated using install farms or mobile device emulators, leading to a misleading sense of trust. Additionally, both applications have advanced permissions that enable them to conceal their icons from the home screen, complicating their removal for unsuspecting users.

In response to this startling revelation, Pradeo provides security advice for individuals and businesses. It suggests that users exercise caution while downloading applications, especially those without ratings but claim a substantial user base. Understanding app permissions thoroughly before acceptance is essential to prevent breaches like this.

For organizations, Pradeo recommends educating their employees about mobile threats and establishing automated mobile detection and response systems as safeguards against potential assaults.

This episode underlines the ongoing struggle between cybersecurity professionals and malevolent actors exploiting unsuspecting users. Malware and spyware assaults are perpetually evolving and discovering new ways to penetrate trusted platforms like the Google Play Store. As users, the onus is on us to remain alert, be cautious while downloading applications, and depend on trustworthy sources for software.

Saher Mahmood

Saher Mahmood


Saher is a cybersecurity researcher with a passion for innovative technology and AI. She explores the intersection of AI and cybersecurity to stay ahead of evolving threats.

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