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Google's App Defense Alliance will make bad apps easier to spot

Google is working with leading security firms to integrate their software into Google Play Protect.

Published onNovember 6, 2019

App Defense Alliance

In 2017, Google launched Google Play Protect with one simple goal: stop bad apps.

Google Play Protect works by scanning apps daily and adapting over time to find bad code. If it finds a bad actor on one Android device, that’s one more instance for Google’s machine learning system to learn from and prevent the spread of that specific malware across more devices.

The thing is, malicious apps can be incredibly complex. An app doesn’t have to send your data off to a foreign country to do harm. Google categorizes these potentially harmful apps under a number of categories and has been trying to better understand them so Play Protect can catch them early.

But no system is foolproof. Even with Google’s enormous data sets, there will always be malicious apps that slip through the cracks. That’s why today, Google is launching an initiative called the App Defense Alliance, in partnership with ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium — all top names in the cybersecurity industry.

The App Defense Alliance will integrate systems from all four companies into one major malware-detection platform. Just as everyone thinks differently about solutions to problems, Google thinks adding insight from other industry professionals will help its detection become better, earlier.

App Defense Alliance will integrate systems from all four companies into one major malware-detection platform.
“As part of this Alliance, we are integrating our Google Play Protect detection systems with each partner’s scanning engines. This will generate new app risk intelligence as apps are being queued to publish. Partners will analyze that dataset and act as another, vital set of eyes prior to an app going live on the Play Store,” Google’s Head of Android Security & Privacy Dave Kleidermacher wrote in the blog post announcing the initiative.

Google says it has handpicked these partners due to their track record in finding potential threats. Each of the three partners are consistently cited among analysts in the field, and Google thinks collaboration is key in the cybersecurity industry. “Knowledge sharing and industry collaboration are important aspects in securing the world from attacks. We believe working together is the ultimate way we will get ahead of bad actors,” Kleidermacher said.

Just like the Open Handset Alliance helped shape the smartphone industry as we know it today, Google is hoping the new initiative will help create a much safer app ecosystem on Android. For now, it’s not clear if more security companies and researchers will join the new App Defense Alliance in the future. But, as Google put it, when it comes to security, the more eyes the better.