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Published: Mon, November 20, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Google will remove apps that misuse Android Accessibility Services from Google Play

Google will remove apps that misuse Android Accessibility Services from Google Play

Officially, accessibility services is an Android API created to help people with disabilities use their smartphone by running in the background and aiding the user by carrying out tasks such as automatically filling out forms, overlaying content or switching between applications. If they want to continue hosting their app there, they will now be required to show a visible explainer to users as to how and why they are using the feature. This includes battery "doctor" apps, phone key remapping apps, some password managers, status bar replacement, and more. DoubleLocker ransomware and BankBot malware are also among those which exploit accessibility services to compromise Android devices. But that's not really going to work with most of the apps that use the service. Those who employ them for the purposes of assisting those with disabilities - as Google wishes - will be permitted to continue doing so.

Accessibility Services are meant to help users with disabilities (physical, visual, or age-related) use their device, and therefore have full access to the contents of the interfaces that a user interacts with.

That's a bummer for fans of apps like LastPass, Tasker, Cerberus and Universal Copy, all of which use the aforementioned API.

The apps cited by Trend Micro have been removed from the Play Store.

See also: Can Google win its battle with Android malware?

Google has recently emailed Android app developers regarding its move to take down apps that take advantage of the platform's Accessibility features in order to stealthily serve malware to users. However, some have criticised Google's message as being too vague and not helpful to developers or users.

ZDNet contacted Google for clarification, but hadn't received a response at the time of publishing. The problem is, it could mean that lots of popular apps are removed from the Play Store as a by-product. While the feature is good, it's still part of Android 8.1 which the likelihood of the devices that would benefit from this feature actually getting it is pretty small. However, most of these apps do not follow the rules set forth by Google.

This set of interview questions will help your HR department identify the best candidates to fill the position of Android developer.

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