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How Google kept billions of malicious apps off of your smartphone last year

Can Google keep this up as we move into 2020?

Published onFebruary 11, 2020

REDMAGIC 3S play store

The Google Play Store houses billions of apps and games from developers all around the world. No matter how many security measures Google puts in place, some malicious apps continue to make it through, and users can still download harmful apps from third-party sources.

To combat this, Google has continued to develop tools, resources, and policies preventing apps and developers from taking advantage of Android users. Now, Google has revealed exactly how it has done so over the course of 2019 and what its plans are looking forward.

Google has recently made an effort to crackdown on app permissions, preventing developers from gaining access to unnecessary parts of your devices. A little over a year ago, it released a new policy keeping many apps from accessing SMS and call log data when they don’t need to.

Related: 15 best antivirus apps and best anti-malware apps for Android!

Because of this, Google saw a 98% decrease in apps accessing these permissions, with the remaining 2% being apps that require access to this information for its core functionality. The company’s recent focus on protecting children and their families has also led Google to take many other steps toward encouraging developers to update or remove tens of thousands of apps that violate these new user-protecting policies.

Many of Google’s efforts were placed in keeping malicious apps away from users in the first place. To do this, it significantly improved its vetting process in 2019, which kept nearly 800,000 malicious apps from entering the Play Store at all.

To prevent apps that do make it into the Play Store from taking advantage of users, the company has revamped Google Play Protect — its built-in malware protection tool. Google Play Protect scans more than 100 billion apps every single day to provide users with information about potential security issues. It also suggests actions users can take to keep their devices secure.

This tool even protects users from apps downloaded from third-party sources. In 2019, Play Protect prevented users from installing 1.9 billion malicious apps from non-Google Play sources. These are huge figures, and they are testaments to Google’s efforts in this sector.

Google also recently announced its App Defence Alliance initiative, which should continue to streamline this process. Working with other big names in the cybersecurity industry like ESETLookout, and Zimperium should help Google’s malware detection software get smarter and more efficient as we head into 2020 and beyond.

Google Play Store app showing up on Pixel 3 smartphone

Though Google and the Play Store team have shown substantial growth in their fight against malicious apps and developers, there is still work to be done. Google isn’t planning on reinventing the wheel here. Instead, it wants to continue building upon the progress its made in recent years.

Moving forward, it hopes to strengthen its user-protecting policies, improve its harmful app detection and removal process, detect malicious developers sooner, and prevent these developers from repeated behavior.

Read also: Forensics detective says Android phones are now harder to crack than iPhones

“While we are proud of what we were able to achieve in partnership with our developer community, we know there is more work to be done,” said Google in its recent blog post. “Adversarial bad actors will continue to devise new ways to evade our detection systems and put users in harm’s way for their own gains. Our commitment in building the world’s safest and most helpful app platform will continue in 2020.”

Let’s see if Google can hold to that commitment in the year to come and continue making strides in protecting Android users from malicious apps in the Play Store and from other third-party sources.

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