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Yes, Google has a yet another rebrand. This time, Google is pooling in all of its Android-related security features and putting them under a new umbrella: Google Play Protect. This means there’s a new home and name for some of the features you’re already familiar with. Plus new features based on new security technologies.
Android is often perceived as being less secure and more prone to malware and virus infections. Some of that’s true. With this new initiative, Google is taking steps to educate users as to what’s safe and what isn’t.
Google Play Protect is rolling out to all Android devices that are running Google Play Services 11 or higher.
What Exactly Does Google Play Protect Do?
Google Play Protect is supposed to be the all-things-security pack for Android. Right now it does three things: app scanning, browser safety, and device tracking.
Play Protect is a cluster of security checks and certifications. Previously, Google had featured badges for verified developers as a way to signal that everything was okay. When you see the new Play Protect logo, Google hopes it will have the same effect.
At its core, Play Protect is meant to be a real-time scanner for all apps. That includes that app you’re about to install from the Play Store, as well as the app you’ve already been using for a couple of years. Google will do this behind the scenes, and automatically. When something’s wrong, it will try to get your attention.
More interesting is how Google scans apps. Google is using its artificial intelligence prowess to pool in app scan data from millions of devices. According to Google, 50 billion apps are scanned every day. Because of the sheer amount of data being processed, Google knows which apps are behaving unusually. It can then help you get rid of those apps. You’ll get a notification saying the app is harmful. Tap on Uninstall in the notification itself and the app will be removed from your device.
Even though Google promises that every app developer is vetted before the app is uploaded to the Play Store, the reality is quite different. Compared to the Apple’s App Store, it’s still relatively trivial to get an Android app up and running on the Play Store. While there’s no word if Google is working on improving the app approval process, the fact that apps are now scanned so rigorously should help Google detect malware before it has already spread across millions of devices.
Where to Locate Google Play Protect
Once it’s rolled out, you’ll find the Play Protect setting buried inside the Google section of your Settings app.
Open the Settings app, select Google > Security, and you’ll see the Google Play Protect section at the bottom. It will tell you how long it’s been since the last scan.
Tap on it and you’ll see the detailed screen of which apps were scanned recently.
To find the feature in the Play Store, slide out the sidebar from the left side and look for Play Protect.
Android Device Manager Becomes Find My Device
It’s a rebrand inside a rebrand! Welcome to a rebrand sandwich. Once your phone has been updated with the new app, you can go to android.com/find to locate, lock, or erase your Android phone.
Download the app, log in with your Google account, give the app location access and you’re all set. As you’ll notice, the Google Play Protect branding is all over the new app.
Download: Find My Device (Free)
Play Protect Doesn’t Disrupt Side-Loaded Apps
If you’re an Android enthusiast and you like to download modded apps that aren’t available on the Play Store, you might be concerned by Google Play’s passive scanning efforts. Right now, Play Protect isn’t automatically flagging every single sideloaded app or APK file as a malware. Although if a sideloaded app is actually harmful, and Google has the scanned data to support the claim, you’ll get a notification about it.
So don’t worry, this isn’t Google trying to turn Android into something like iOS. Also, the best way to make sure your Android phone doesn’t get infected is to only install apps from Play Store. And even then, be diligent about app developers before downloading apps. Make sure you’re downloading the official version of popular apps.
How to Disable Google Play Protect
If you’re on a rooted device, or if you’re getting way too many false positives, there’s a way to turn off this feature.
Open the Settings app, select Google > Security > Play Protect, and turn off the Scan device for security threats toggle.
Only Time Will Tell
It’s great to see Google taking steps to curb malware and rogue apps on Android. And Google certainly has the technology to pull it off. But it remains to see how this will work out. Does this artificial intelligence method work just as well as Apple’s human plus automation process? We’ll find out when next year’s security reports come out.
What do you think of Google Play Protect? Do you think Google has chosen the right method? Share with us in the comments below.
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