Mobile devices have supercharged our modern lives, helping us do everything from purchasing goods in store and paying bills online to storing financial data, health records, passwords and pictures. According to Data.ai, the pandemic accelerated existing mobile habits – with app categories like finance growing 25% year-over-year and users spending over 100 billion hours in shopping apps. It’s now even more important that data is protected so that bad actors can’t access the information.
Powering up Google Play Protect
Google Play Protect is built-in, proactive protection against malware and unwanted software and is enabled on all Android devices with Google Play Services. Google Play Protect scans 125 billion apps daily to help protect you from malware and unwanted software. If it finds a potentially harmful app, Google Play Protect can take certain actions such as sending you a warning, preventing an app install, or disabling the app automatically.
To try and avoid detection by services like Play Protect, cybercriminals are using novel malicious apps available outside of Google Play to infect more devices with polymorphic malware, which can change its identifiable features. They’re turning to social engineering to trick users into doing something dangerous, such as revealing confidential information or downloading a malicious app from ephemeral sources – most commonly via links to download malicious apps or downloads directly through messaging apps.
For this reason, Google Play Protect has always also offered users protection outside of Google Play. It checks your device for potentially harmful apps regardless of the install source when you’re online or offline as well. Previously, when installing an app, Play Protect conducted a real-time check and warned users when it identified an app known to be malicious from existing scanning intelligence or was identified as suspicious from our on-device machine learning, similarity comparisons, and other techniques that we are always evolving.
Today, we are making Google Play Protect’s security capabilities even more powerful with real-time scanning at the code-level to combat novel malicious apps. Google Play Protect will now recommend a real-time app scan when installing apps that have never been scanned before to help detect emerging threats.
Scanning will extract important signals from the app and send them to the Play Protect backend infrastructure for a code-level evaluation. Once the real-time analysis is complete, users will get a result letting them know if the app looks safe to install or if the scan determined the app is potentially harmful. This enhancement will help better protect users against malicious polymorphic apps that leverage various methods, such as AI, to be altered to avoid detection.
Our security protections and machine learning algorithms learn from each app submitted to Google for review and we look at thousands of signals and compare app behavior. Google Play Protect is constantly improving with each identified app, allowing us to strengthen our protections for the entire Android ecosystem.
This enhancement to Google Play Protect has started to roll out to all Android devices with Google Play services in select countries, starting with India, and will expand to all regions in the coming months.
Our Multi-Layered User Protections on Android
Android takes a multi-layered defense approach to help keep you safe from mobile malware and unwanted software on Android. Android’s built-in proactive and advanced user protections like Google Play Protect, ongoing security updates, app permission controls, Safe Browsing, and more – alongside spam and phishing protection in Messages by Google and Gmail – work together to help protect your data security and privacy. We are constantly improving this multi-layered approach to find new ways to protect our billions of users.
Keeping Android users safe is a top priority. We are committed to working with our ecosystem partners and app developer community to improve the security of apps and combat malware and unwanted software to make Android even more secure.