1:24 am (UTC-7) | by Lion Gu (Senior Threat Researcher)
With Android’s steady growth in the US market and other parts of the world, it’s no surprise that the Android OS is also becoming more and more popular in China. Many users choose to use Android-based devices because of their powerful functions, various phone types, reasonable prices, and plenty of applications. A consequence of this wide-spread usage is that the Android OS is now the second-largest smartphone OS in China.
This growth of Android users in China, however, seems to do little for the rocky relationship between Google and the Chinese government. It has been reported that access to the Google Android Market has been intermittent since 2009 (Access to the Android Market was last reported blocked in October, but was unblocked again three days after).
The inconvenience in accessing the Android Market, one not experienced by users from other countries, can be considered a big factor in the Chinese users’ preference in terms of where to download their Android applications.
Early third-party app stores were founded as an online forum for some Android fans. The fans discussed topics about the OS, and also released a few applications in the online forum. After the Android Market became inaccessible to China-based users last year, the forums became popular among Android developers and users.
With the number of Android users growing fast, many have chosen to participate in the app store field. There are about 20 Chinese third-party app stores right now. Currently, the top three third party app stores are Hiapk, Gfan, and Anzhi (also called Goapk).
Most applications in the stores are free. Developers make money from advertisement embedded in their applications.
Like the Android Market, third-party Android app stores are also facing security problems. We’ve seen that most malicious applications coming from China are found in those stores. The reason is pretty obvious: these stores are the best way to deliver malicious applications to a multitude of end-users.
Apart from malicious applications, repackaged applications and pirated applications are also hosted in these stores.
As most of the app stores in China are relatively small by global comparison, the resources required to maintain effective levels of application monitoring and testing are not available. This leaves them open to a greater likelihood of hosting malicious applications. It is therefore up to the individual user to attempt to ensure a sufficient level of security of their device, the first step of which is to be vigilant in only downloading and installing trustworthy apps.
Users can find tips on this as well as a range of other information designed to help them maintain a secure Android device at the Trend Micro Mobile Threat Information Hub.
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