Avast uncovers another invasive app on Google Play Store
Just days after Avast mobile threat researchers had seven stalkerware apps pulled from the Google Play Store, the company’s apklab.io threat intelligence platform has identified yet another tracker, from a different developer, that takes privacy violations even further.
“Family Employee Monitor (Enterprise Tracking),” which has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, bills itself as an app for parents to monitor their children or organizations to manage employees. The Avast Threat Labs is classifying this as stalkerware/surveillance software because it can access and exfiltrate social media activity (including Facebook, Messenger, Kik, Skype, Hangouts, among other chat platforms) of the end-user.
Another shady practice is the app’s process for free trials; in order to sign up at no cost, users must leave a 4- or 5-star review for a separate parenting app, Netiquette, including specific keywords related to cyberbullying and protecting children. We looked into Netiquette further and determined that it too is a scam, requiring users to pay for a “parenting social network” outside of official Google Play Store payment channels.
Avast has reported this app to the Google Play Store. Commenting on the issue, Nikolaos Chrysaidos, Head of Mobile Threat Intelligence and Security, said:
“Apps like Family Employee Monitor are extremely invasive to the end-user and have no place in mobile app stores. Advertised with very questionable and intrusive monitoring features for parents and employers, it’s a slippery slope if these tools get into the hands of abusive partners or stalkers. We are collaborating with Google to have it (and others like it) removed, not just because their capabilities blatantly disregard Android’s anti-spyware policies, but also for the underlying ethical and safety reasons involved.”