Google removes rogue Android apps

Android stand at Mobile World Congress, AP Mobile phones are increasingly catching the eye of hi-tech thieves

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Google has used a "kill switch" to clean up phones hit by rogue Android applications.

Almost 60 malware-infected programs were found on the Android Market on 1 March and estimates suggest they may have been downloaded by 200,000 users.

The malicious apps hid data-stealing code inside games, utilities and other programs.

The "kill switch" allows Google to remotely uninstall software from handsets running its operating system.

58 malicious applications were removed from the Android Market by Google soon after it was alerted to their presence.

It suspended the accounts of the developers who apparently uploaded the apps, and also contacted the police.

In a blog posting, Google said it had activated the remote application removal following an internal investigation.

The company plans to push out a security update, designed to close the loopholes that the malicious applications took advantage of.

It is not clear when this will arrive on handsets, as in many cases the timing will be under the control of mobile operators rather than Google.

The malicious code inside the applications used vulnerabilities in early versions of Android's operating system to view and steal key information such as a phone's unique ID number.

It also opened a backdoor onto the phone which would have allowed attackers to install any code they wanted.

Google's action will not entirely remove the threat from the Android ecosystem.

This is because the malicious apps have been found on several unofficial versions of the Android marketplace where many more users may have downloaded and installed them.

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