Google Play Marketplace has eliminated 20 Android apps because of their ability to spy on and record users, among other sneaky acts. The apps, which exploited known vulnerabilities to evade security protections built into older versions of Android, posed as tools for cleaning and backing up data.

Dubbed Lipizzan (a breed of horse), the spyware is believed to be developed by Equus Technologies, a cyber arms company. Among the capabilities:

  • Accessing sensitive data stored, sent, or received by dozens of apps, including Gmail, Hangouts, LinkedIn, and Messenger
  • Collecting messages sent and received by Whatsapp, Telegram, and Viber
  • Recording calls
  • Recording VOIP
  • Recording from the device microphone
  • Monitoring location
  • Taking screenshots
  • Taking photos with the device camera
  • Fetching device information and files
  • Fetching user information (contacts, call logs, SMS, application-specific data)

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