Google is introducing a new system that scans all of the apps on Android devices continuously, looking for unwanted behavior, malware, and other problems.
The new Play Protect framework is Google’s latest attempt to shore up the security of the Android ecosystem. Any apps that are in the Play store already are subject to a number of reviews and security restrictions. Google checks out every developer who submits apps to the store and also employs a tool called Bouncer that scans submitted apps. Bouncer looks for both outright malicious behavior as well as hidden or undocumented features that could be harmful to the device.
The app store-level checks are designed to prevent users from installing malware or shady apps that somehow make their way into the Play store. But the Android ecosystem allows users to install apps from other sources, including third-party marketplaces, and Google has no control over the security or integrity of those apps. Play Protect is designed to remedy that situation by constantly checking the apps on Android devices and alerting users to any problems.
“Play Protect is built into every device with Google Play, is always updating, and automatically takes action to keep your data and device safe, so you don’t have to lift a finger,” Edward Cunningham, product manager for Android security at Google, said in a post.
“With more than 50 billion apps scanned every day, our machine learning systems are always on the lookout for new risks, identifying potentially harmful apps and keeping them off your device or removing them. All Google Play apps go through a rigorous security analysis even before they’re published on the Play Store—and Play Protect warns you about bad apps that are downloaded from other sources too. Play Protect watches out for any app that might step out of line on your device, keeping you and every other Android user safe.”
Since the advent of smart phones and the app store model, attackers have been trying to sneak malware and other kinds of malicious apps into the stores and onto users’ phones. They had some early successes going after the Android app store, but Google has tightened up the app submission and review process considerably in recent years. Play Protect adds another layer to that protection.
As part of the new system, Google also added a feature similar to Apple’s Find My iPhone feature that allows users to find their devices by signing into their Google accounts.