Google flagged Samsung apps as spyware

Google’s Play Protect security service for Android smartphones incorrectly flagged two popular Samsung apps as harmful last week, 9to5Google reports.

The issue was first flagged by users of the Google Support forum, who posted screenshots of a notification from the Play Protect service informing users that the Samsung Wallet and Samsung Messages apps were harmful.

Both these apps come pre-installed with Samsung smartphones.

Samsung Wallet is the successor to Samsung Pay and is a legitimate digital payment service that allows users to link their bank cards to their phones or smartwatches and make tap payments with the relevant account.

However, Play Protect said the app tried to spy on users’ data, including SMS messages, photos, audio recordings, and call history.

That would qualify it as spyware, a form of malware used for surveillance without a user’s permission.

The notification advised users to uninstall or disable the apps, as shown in the screenshot below.

A moderator on the Samsung Community Forum posted a response to the issue, explaining it was caused by a “temporary failure of the Google server” and was resolved.

Those affected by the bug can reinstall the app or go to their app settings to re-enable it.

Google did not provide an official response acknowledging the apparent glitch or its cause from its end.

Recent Play Protect improvements

Google recently announced a major improvement for the Play Protect service — the ability to scan sideloaded apps for malicious code before they are installed on a user’s device.

The service already scans about 125 billion apps daily to help protect users from malware and other harmful software.

It can take various actions when it detects a potentially harmful app — including sending the user a warning, preventing an app install, or automatically disabling the app.

Play Protect previously conducted real-time checks and warned users when it identified a sideloaded app known to be malicious from existing scanning intelligence or on-device machine learning, similarity comparisons, and other techniques.

With the latest update, Play Protect can perform a real-time scan at the code level, further reducing the likelihood of Android smartphones getting infected with malware.

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Google flagged Samsung apps as spyware