Google just took a major step up in keeping you safe from dodgy Android apps

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: TechRadar)

Google has announced a new security tool to help strike back at hackers who have adopted new techniques to infect and compromise Android endpoints.

In a blog post, the company revealed significant improvements to how its Android Play Protect security feature operates.

As per the announcement, Google Play Protect will scan apps, in real-time, at code level, to look for signs of potentially malicious behavior.

Polymorphic threats

“Scanning will extract important signals from the app and send them to the Play Protect backend infrastructure for a code-level evaluation,” Google explains. “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.”

Google says the upgrade will boost defenses against polymorphic apps that leverage tricks such as AI to stay hidden. Polymorphic apps are capable of changing their identifiable features to stay hidden, or discourage users from uninstalling them. An example might be an app that advertises as a photo editor but changes its icon and name to something like “System settings” post-installation. Users might not be aware of the change, or might be too afraid to try and uninstall an app named “System settings”. 

Google also claims Play Protect will get even better in time. “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.”

The new tool will be rolled out gradually, so don’t be alarmed if you still don’t have it. India is the first country where the feature is being rolled on, with other regions getting it “in the coming months”.

More from TechRadar Pro

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.