Institut Eurécom, a graduate school and research center in France, recently released a paper on mobile apps, particularly for the Android platform, entitled “Taming the Android App Store: Lightweight Characterization of Android Applications”.
Their objective was to “build a system to characterize the network behavior of Android applications”. The researchers feel that this is important because it would help users make better decisions when it comes to hand-picking which apps to install onto their mobile devices, either personal or company-issued ones, if they know how the apps behave, which destinations they connect to, and how often they do so once installed.
The researchers also focused on three (3) types of destinations that users may find undesirable, and these are: (1) ad-related, (2) tracking-related, and (3) malware-related (or previously associated with malware activity).
Below are just some of the points we found interesting from the study:
- 66% of all free apps, which were downloaded from the Google Play Store and tested on unrooted Android phones, contact ad URLs. On the average, a single app is found to be associated with 40 of such URLs.
- 9 out of the top 10 sites that apps connect to are related to Google.
- 73.2% of apps studied did not connect to tracking URLs. However, if an app does connect to them, it connects to multiple destinations. Apps that use trackers were observed to be more popular and highly rated in the Google Play Store. Majority of users don’t know that these apps have trackers.
- Researchers observed that apps that usually connect to malware-related or suspicious sites are those with low download count. The names of these apps can be easily confused with the more popular and legitimate app. They called this method of naming “app name squatting”.
To conclude, the researchers call for greater transparency in the way apps interact with the network.
You can read more details regarding the points mentioned above and more by downloading and reading the study from here.