The price of an open market: Google pulls 21 Android apps for malware

Yesterday, the Android market had 21 applications pulled by Google and force-removed from users' devices due to them containing an exploit called 'rageagainstthecage'. And while Google successfully and quickly pulled the software from the market and from devices ("kill switch"), those 21 apps were downloaded over 50,000 times (bigger market, bigger target).

It was bound to happen. We've been bombarded for years about the threat of computer viruses, exploits, Trojans, etc. and if there was ever a viable target today, Android would be it. It has an open market (no approval processes), huge market share and one heck of a hacker community. How serious is the exploit? Our sister site Android Central says:

rageagainstthecage...opens the door for the app to do anything with your data -- like send it to a remote server. Of course with root it can do much worse as well.If you installed any of these applications, they should have been pulled off your phone, but that's not enough. You need to do a full system wipe and reset your phone completely, the data wipe and reset from settings may not be enough. This means ODIN, RUU's, .sbf files or a trip to your carrier store if this is beyond your capabilities.

Mind you, all 21 apps were uploaded by one person. Going further, Android Police, who originally broke the story says steals nearly everything it can: product ID, model, partner (provider?), language, country, and userID. But that’s all child’s play; the true pièce de résistance is that it has the ability to download more code. In other words, there’s no way to know what the app does after it’s installed, and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Egads. While we hope nothing too nefarious has happened, it goes to show that having a regulated Marketplace, like Windows Phone, where the code is checked for such things can be quite valuable when compared to what Android users are now facing. Will this become a regular occurrence? What will Google do to address the problem? It will be interesting to see in the next couple of days the fallout from this breach.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.