A malicious application could suppress its icon from being displayed to the user in the application launcher. This hides the fact that it is installed, and can make it more difficult for the user to uninstall the application. Hiding the application's icon programmatically does not require any special permissions.
Beginning in Android 10, changes were introduced to inhibit malicious applications’ ability to hide their icon. If an app is a system app, requests no permissions, or does not have a launcher activity, the application’s icon will be fully hidden. Further, if the device is fully managed or the application is in a work profile, the icon will be fully hidden. Otherwise, a synthesized activity is shown, which is a launcher icon that represents the app’s details page in the system settings. If the user clicks the synthesized activity in the launcher, they are taken to the application’s details page in the system settings.
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Users should be shown what a synthetic activity looks like so they can scrutinize them in the future.
The user can examine the list of all installed applications, including those with a suppressed icon, in the device settings. If the user is redirected to the device settings when tapping an application’s icon, they should inspect the application to ensure it is genuine. Application vetting services could potentially detect the usage of APIs intended for suppressing the application’s icon.