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Chrome Web app search listings put malicious apps first

Companies that run online app stores are challenged with separating legitimate content from scam software and knockoffs, but the sheer scale of these services mean that some outliers are inevitably going to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, a quirk of the Chrome Web Store is affording malicious apps a major advantage.

When you enter a term in the Web Store’s search bar, you’re presented with three app results first by default, even if your query is a phrase more commonly associated with an extension. Google’s insistence on promoting particular types of content might be frustrating for users, but in of itself it’s rather innocuous.

However, this system is now being abused by users looking for a platform that can showcase their malicious software. By naming their app after a common search term, or otherwise hoodwinking the way search listings are laid out, a straightforward search can easily present suspect apps well ahead of legitimate extensions.

While it’s easy to blame the creators of this content for pushing their wares, it’s perhaps more accurate to pin responsibility on Google. It’s thought that the Chrome Web Store is set up in this way because apps for Google’s OS haven’t taken off as suspected, as speculated upon by PC World.

Reporting from the site goes on to confirm that the Google search engine is perfectly capable of finding the correct extensions using the same search strings that produce app results on the Web Store. The company has the ability to amend the situation, but is not doing so in order to promote particular business interests.

That will certainly come as a disappointment to users who aren’t interested in Chrome OS, but rely on other Google services like the Chrome browser. It’s great to see a company branch out into new ventures, but from a consumer standpoint, it’s far from satisfying to see that expansion come at a cost.