With malware continuing to remain a massive problem, Google on Tuesday detailed some of the major initiatives it took last year to make the internet a safer place for users.
In a post on its official Android Developers Blog, the company said that it not only strengthened its policies last year to better protect kids and families, but also continued to improve its developer approval process to weed out bad apps before they even have the chance to be listed on the Play Store.
Towards that end of the year, one of the biggest initiatives from the company last year was the formation of an umbrella organization called the App Defense Alliance that the tech giant said will work towards stopping “bad apps before they reach users’ devices.“ A collaboration between ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium, the alliance’s number one goal would be to ensure the safety of the Play Store by finding potentially harmful applications and stopping them from being published.
The alliance seems to be working as intended because Google says its “improved vetting mechanisms” stopped over 790,000 policy-violating app submissions before they were ever published on the Play Store. The company’s initiative to block third-party apps from unnecessarily accessing privacy-sensitive SMS and Call Log data also apparently had the desired effect, with a 98% decrease in apps accessing SMS and Call Log data. “The remaining 2% are comprised of apps that require SMS and Call Log data to perform their core function”, said the company.
Another system that seems to be doing its job, for the most part, is Google Play Protect, which is a real-time malware protection mechanism announced by the company back in 2017. Built into the official Play Store app and enabled by default on all Android devices, Play Protect blocked more than 1.9 billion malicious app installs last year from non-Google sources, including third-party app stores. The number is a significant increase from the 1.6 billion the company reported each of the previous two years.
Alongside that, the company also claimed to be using state-of-the-art machine learning software to prevent malware and stop fake reviews on the Play Store, both of which continue to remain a major headache. According to Google, “(We) enhanced our machine learning detection systems analyzing an app’s code, metadata, and user engagement signals for any suspicious content or behaviors, as well as scaling the number and the depth of manual reviews”.
You can read all the details about Google’s efforts for fighting malware in the official blog post.