Almost 25 percent of Android apps feature code that can access application permissions and cause security vulnerabilities, according to a new study by mobile security firm TrustGo.
Of the 2.3m Android apps analysed by TrustGo in the fourth quarter of 2012, 511,000 were identified as high risk, defined as being able to make unauthorised payments, steal data or modify user settings.
Not all of the apps are universally available. For example, just 10 percent of apps in the US and Western Europe had a high risk for causing security issues. While China was reported to have the most high risk apps available for download.
"Malware continues to be a problem around the world, but the real growth is happening in a category of apps we call 'High Risk,'" says TrustGo founder and chief executive Xuyang Li.
"These apps do not include malware in the conventional sense, but they are capable of a wide variety of behaviours that put users in danger. Importantly, it is practically impossible for users to distinguish High Risk apps from the safe ones on their own."
High risk apps have the potential to create security loopholes. Faulty code in an app can allow hackers to track user phone numbers, modify user's bookmarks, and push unwanted ads onto user's devices, TrustGo claimed.
According to TrustGo's report, 77 percent of all apps available in China pose a high risk for security breaches.
The five riskiest app stores to download Android apps from were also reported to be based in China.
TrustGo found that the safest app store to download from was the European-based store Aproov. Only two percent of the stores apps were reported to offer a high risk for security issues.
Both the Amazon App Store and Google Play Store also scored high marks for safety. Only 7.5 percent of apps in the Amazon App Store were found to be high risk. While the Google Play Store had 8.4 percent of its apps showing a high risk for security problems.
To come up with its results TrustGo examined over two million apps from over 187 worldwide app stores. Statistics were gathered during the fourth quarter of 2012.