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Google Suspends China’s Pinduoduo App from Play Store Citing Malware Issues

UTC by Bhushan Akolkar · 3 min read
Google Suspends China’s Pinduoduo App from Play Store Citing Malware Issues
Photo: Depositphotos

The Pinduoduo app serves more than 700 million people every month. Google has no word on when it will get the app back on the Play Store.

On Tuesday, March 21, tech giant Google announced the suspension of the Chinese e-commerce app Pinduoduo citing that they discovered malware in the unsanctioned versions of the software.

Google Suspends Pinduoduo App

As a security precaution, the Play Store version of Pinduoduo is no longer available for download. This development comes at a time when American lawmakers have accused Chinese-owned apps such as TikTok of threatening national security.

Pinduoduo is one of the biggest online retailers in China, and this is a one-of-its-kind move by Google to freeze downloads of an app of this size. On Tuesday, Google warned users to uninstall the off-store versions of the app.

The Pinduoduo app serves more than 700 million people every month. However, it’s most commonly downloaded through domestic platforms since Google isn’t available in the country. Speaking on the development, a Google spokesperson said:

“Google Play Protect enforcement has been set to block installation attempts of these identified malicious apps. Users that have malicious versions of the app downloaded to their devices are warned and prompted to uninstall the app.”

Shawn Chang, founder, and chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based security firm HardenedVault, also said that the code from the previous versions of Pinduoduo on GitHub shows the presence of malware. “According to that publicly available information, PDD has used nday/0day exploits, targeting Android parcel serialization/deserialization to gain system privileges,” he said.

Pinduoduo Parent PDD Holdings Reports Disappointing Sale

The recent development puts a major challenge for PDD Holdings as the company seeks to expand beyond the Chinese mainland. However, it also puts PDD’s other e-commerce app Temu at risk that it could prompt new customers to abandon the platform.

On Monday, March 20, the Chinese online retailer, however, reported disappointing sales. In recent years, PDD Holdings has been eating into the market share of giants like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc. and has been aggressively expanding into North America with Temu. Compared to these rivals, shares of parent PDD Holdings Inc. have also been trading at a premium.

However, just before the results on Monday, Morgan Stanley analysts including Eddy Wang wrote:

“We expect PDD to sustain faster-than-industry growth even under a backdrop of intensified competition in the near term” given that it’s the “go-to e-commerce platform for most consumers”.

PDD’s Temu app is capturing the North American market pretty fast by attracting consumers through key bargains. Temu currently stands as the most-downloaded app on Apple Inc’s US app store. In the first five months of its operations, Temu achieved $500 million GMV in the US.

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