Enhanced Google Play Protect Fights Back Against Malicious Apps

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In today’s technology-driven world, even the most sophisticated individuals can fall victim to cybercriminal schemes. As our digital landscape expands, malicious actors are constantly devising new methods to trick and rob unsuspecting users. This year, 8.9 million Android devices, from smartphones and smartwatches to TVs, were found to be pre-infected with guerrilla malware.

In response to this escalating threat, Google recently unveiled plans to strengthen Google Play Protect’s security features. The primary goal is implementing comprehensive real-time scanning measures to thwart malicious applications. When users try to install apps that haven’t yet been scanned, Play Protect prompts them to scan for potential threats.

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Google explained: “The scan extracts key signals from the app and passes them to Play Protect’s backend infrastructure for detailed code-level assessment. After real-time analysis, users receive a verdict indicating whether the app is safe to install or if the scan identifies it as potentially malicious.”

This upgraded version of Play Protect significantly improves its ability to identify “malicious polymorphic apps”, which are apps capable of changing their properties to avoid detection. These apps use advanced technologies like artificial intelligence to stay under the radar.

The update is currently rolling out to Android devices equipped with Google Play in India and select other countries, with a wider release expected in the coming months.

Once the feature is available on your device, Play Protect will prompt you when it encounters an app it hasn’t yet explored. A pop-up message advises: “Play Protect has not seen this app yet. To protect your device and data, please provide some information about the app for Google to review before installing.” Users can then choose to scan the app or cancel the installation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to spend more time at home in 2020, leading to a significant increase in smartphone usage. A 2021 Statista survey revealed that nearly 50% of respondents admitted to spending five to six hours on their phones every day. Although these numbers have decreased somewhat since then, the average person still spends 4.8 hours a day on their phone.

In this age of increased digital connectivity, understanding how to protect yourself is critical as fraudsters step up their efforts to trick even the most cautious users.

One common tactic used by cybercriminals is posting fake customer service phone numbers online. Their goal is to charge unsuspecting callers for non-existent customer service or force them to sign up for unnecessary services. To avoid this, always get information regarding canceling or changing your subscription directly from the company’s official website. It is important to note that fraudulent websites can closely mimic authentic ones. Instead of searching the web for cancellation instructions, visit the provider’s website and explore their FAQ section. The same caution should be used when looking for a company’s customer service number, as scammers often impersonate customer service representatives to steal credit card information.

In addition, it is essential to educate yourself about phishing scams. Cybercriminals use cleverly worded emails or text messages to convince you to divulge personal information. These messages often falsely claim that your payment method has failed or your account has been compromised and prompt you to click a link to fix the situation. Do not under any circumstances click on such links, even if the message seems urgent. Scammers are adept at using emotions and their tactics have become more sophisticated over the years. If you are not sure about the status of your account, go to it through the official website of the service.

If you suspect that you have been the target of a scam, please do not hesitate to report it to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or file an informal complaint and take action against these fraudulent activities.