Google has in recent months stepped up its efforts to protect the over 2 billion users of its mobile operating system, Android, from malicious actors.
While that continues to be pretty much a work in progress, the company is on course to guaranteeing the safety of its users whether they get content such as applications and games from the Play Store or not.
However, even as that is the case, there are the occasional instances where even the fortress that is the Play Store is caught flat-footed. That was the case when security researchers at Kaspersky discovered that one of the most popular apps, CamScanner, had malicious code in one of its ad libraries (the app is ad-supported) that, unchecked, could’ve done untold harm to users.
While Kaspersky’s disclosures led to the concerned parties releasing subsequent versions of the app that were free of the malicious code, Google is not taking any chances and has, as such, dropped the app from the Play Store.
CamScanner draws its popularity from its ability to take images using the system camera and converting them into documents one can share online or get a hardcopy output as well as using optical character recognition (OCR) to detect text in documents like business cards for easy manipulation.
The app and its offshoots which were a go-to for capturing details contained in business cards before device makers like Huawei started including a similar feature, had amassed over 100 million downloads on the Play Store and over 1.8 million user reviews, most of them positive. Heck, it had even been previously pre-installed on devices like Tecno’s flagship Phantom smartphones (both CamCard and CamScanner were pre-installed on the Phantom 6 and 6 Plus).
What we can learn from this story is that any app — even one from an official store, even one with a good reputation, and even one with millions of positive reviews and a big, loyal user base —can turn into malware overnight.
There has been no official statement from either party (Google or CamScanner’s developers, China-based CC Intelligence) and it is not clear when we’ll be seeing CamScanner back on the Play Store.