Google is fighting bad apps on Android with new security scanning that runs in the background. Here is how to check that these security services are running and protecting your phone.
Over one billion devices run Android and there are well over a million apps for them. Most of them in the Google Play Store. The vast majority of the store apps are perfectly safe, entertaining or useful in one way or another, and there are many fantastic ones.
However, sometimes bad apps get into the store. Google checks thoroughly apps submitted by developers to make sure they are safe, but some people are very devious and try to slip dodgy or even malicious apps through the app approval and assessment process.
If, for whatever reason, a bad app gets into the Google Play Store it can potentially be be downloaded by millions of people, so it could be a serious problem.
To help discover bad apps that somehow get onto your phone, Google has introduced an app checking service called Google Play Protect. When it is running, it periodically scans the apps installed on the device for security threats and improves harmful app detection.
Are these security services turned on? Is your phone or tablet being protected from malicious apps? Check your Android device settings and don’t let a few bad apps ruin your day.
Menus and settings are different on different phones and versions of Android, so the guide below may not be exactly the same on your phone. You might need to hunt around for the settings. I will be using a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 7 for this.
Before starting, open the Google Play Store app, press Settings > My Apps & games and update everything.
1 Google security settings
Pull down from the top and press the gear icon, or go to the apps drawer and press Settings.
Find Google and press it, then press Security to open the security settings. It’s near the bottom of the screen.
2 Verify Apps
It does not look like a button, but pressing Verify Apps opens a new security settings screen. At the top is a notice about Google Play Protect and a LEARN MORE link that opens a browser to go to Google’s Android website to show more information.
Below is a list of recently scanned apps and below that is the message ‘Looks fine’. If problems are ever found, you will be notified.
Down at the bottom of the page are two switches and they should both be turned on for the malicious app protection to work.
The first schedules security scans and apps will be silently scanned in the background. You may not see any messages if everything is OK and I haven't noticed any on my phone. You certainly will see a notification if problems are detected though.
The second switch sends unknown apps to Google for analysis. How can apps be unknown? It is possible to configure Android devices to install apps from outside of the Google Play Store and presumably these are the unknown apps being referred to.
3 Disable unknown sources
Open Settings and select LOCK SCREEN AND SECURITY. Among the many settings is a switch labelled Unknown sources. Turn off this switch to prevent apps from loading outside of the Google Play Store.
Most Android malware exists in alternative stores and whenever you hear of a malicious app, virus or Trojan, it is almost always from these third party stores.
These Android settings should be set correctly by default, so don’t be surprised if you don’t need to change anything. However, it is always wise to check.
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Created: 20 July 2017