Google Play Protect will defend your Android device from malicious apps
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Security remains a major concern in Android devices. At this year’s Google IO Developer Conference in May, the conversation revolved around a number of security-related tools to make the Android OS more robust. One of them was Google Play Protect, a security tool that will always remain active and warn users of bad apps. Unlike many of the security benefits which will be available with Android O, users won’t have to wait until October to enjoy the benefits of Play Protect . Google has started rolling it out on all Android devices.
What is Play Protect?
Play Protect is a new security system which will automatically scan your Android device to identify and flag malicious apps. Then to ensure that you don’t end up downloading such apps in the first place it will vet every app developer and app on the Play Store. In recent past, a number of apps with malicious codes were detected on Play Store and brought to Google’s attention by security experts.
Where can you get it?
Play Protect is not a separate app. It is integrated into the Google Play app and gets a dedicated page where you can learn more about it, see the apps which have been scanned along with the time of the last scan. To access the Play Protect page, go to Google Play app->Security-> Verify apps.
Scanning your device for threats and sending unknown apps to Google for better detection are optional. So make sure they are enabled if you want to take advantage of this new layer of security for your Android device.
How it works
Google analyses privacy and security signals for every app on the Play Store. For this they created peer groups of apps belonging to a particular category. So if an app steps out of line and asks for a permission which its peer apps don’t have, it will be flagged. Experts at Google realised that category-based peer grouping can be inflexible to track the variety available in apps in the same category.
To take care of this, Google has developed a machine learning algorithm which is at the heart of Play Protect. It uses deep learning methods to identify peer groups of apps with similar functionality. It will not only use app category for reference, but app metadata, text descriptions, user metrics and number of installs as well. The peer groups will then be put under the scanner together to detect potentially harmful signals and eventually identify an app which poses a security or privacy risk.
This will allow Google to identify harmless looking apps in which a malicious code is introduced through updates at a later stage.
Google feels this will also help app developers strengthen the privacy and security of their apps.
How to secure your data
This is one of the incremental benefits of Play Protect, which allows users to locate, lock and erase their smartphone remotely, if it is misplaced or stolen. For this, users don’t have to download an app. They can access it on the Chrome browser by typing “find my phone” and typing the login details of the Google account active on the lost smartphone.
Safe Browsing is another of those extra features which arrives with Play Protect. It is a built-in tool for the Chrome browser which can protect users from straying to a potentially risky website. It will flag the website as dangerous and redirect users back to the previous page. You can enable it in Chrome->Settings->Privacy->Safe Browsing.