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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Here’s how to protect your Android smartphone from malicious apps on Google Play Store

While Google is doing its bit to remove malicious apps from Play Store, here’s what you can do to protect your Android phone.

tech Updated: Jan 31, 2018 20:01 IST
Marcia Sekhose
Marcia Sekhose
Hindustan Times
Google removed over 7 lakh malicious apps from Play Store in 2017
Google removed over 7 lakh malicious apps from Play Store in 2017(Reuters)

Google Play Store is the largest platform for mobile applications, but at the same time it draws malicious activity in abundance.

Google is stepping up its efforts to make Play Store cleaner and safer. The company said it had taken down more than 700,000 ‘bad’ apps in 2017. Using machine learning technology, Google has managed to identify and reject apps with abusive content before anyone could download it.

While Google is doing its bit to remove malicious apps from Play Store, there are a few things you as a user can follow too.

Use Google Play Protect

Google launched this initiative in 2017 to keep users and their devices safe from malicious apps. Google Play Protect isn’t a standalone app but a feature in Play Store set by default. It essentially scans all the apps downloaded on Play Store.

You will find Google Play Protect under the Play Store menu. The scanning option can be toggled on/off, and you can also refresh it manually. Play Protect shows the apps that have been scanned and also the last time they were scanned. There’s another advanced option of sending unknown apps to Google for better detection.

Understand app permissions

Devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and above can manage permissions granted for apps. When you download an app from Play Store, you have to first grant certain permission requested by the developers. You can check the permissions required for each app by scrolling down and tapping on ‘Developer’.

After you start using it, you can allow or deny these permissions manually. Go to Settings > Apps, and open each app to see all its details. Here, you will find ‘Permissions’ which can be customized to grant access to the app.

Usually, the app’s requirements include Calendar, Camera, Contacts, Location, and Microphone. You can toggle on/off for each feature the app can get access to. However, note that certain features of the app may not work if permissions aren’t granted.

Identify fake apps

Google Play Store is infested with fake apps. Google classifies these apps as ‘copycats’. Copycats are the most common malicious apps found on Play Store. These apps impersonate popular apps by “using confusable Unicode characters or hiding impersonating app icons in a different locale”.

Fake JioCoin apps flood Google Play Store.
Fake JioCoin apps flood Google Play Store. ( HT Photo )

Before downloading any app, make sure to check its legitimacy. You can do so by checking its ratings, number of download, and most importantly the reviews. There are some developers that go to such an extent of making the app as genuine as possible. You can check for more information on the web to see what the actual logo looks like and also the name of the app. ALSO READ: Beware! Fake JioCoin applications are flooding Google Play store

Other than fake apps, there are more dangerous ones which are categorized as Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs). These apps when downloaded on your smartphone can commit SMS fraud, phishing and install Trojans. Google’s efforts in identifying these apps have improved with the launch of Google Play Protect which has reduced the spread by 50%.

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 19:19 IST

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