One of the most common threats to any operating system is malware. It is a shortened name for malicious software and is present in Windows, Mac OS X, and even in Linux. Its primary goal is to gain access to a system and steal information. Unfortunately, even the Android operating system is not safe from malware as several of these threats have been detected and have infected numerous devices.
The good news is that Google has several countermeasures in place to protect an Android user form malware. The first line of defense is its Google Play store that is constantly scanned for any malware activity. Apps that contain any form of malware are immediately removed so that it can’t cause any damage.
The second line of defense resides in the device itself and is called the “Verify Apps” tool which has been around since 2012. This tool is present in devices running on Android 2.3 and above with Google Play installed. What it does is it scans apps downloaded from Google Play and other sources before it is installed to see if it has any potential security threats.
This Thursday Google announced that it has enhanced the Verify App tool to make it more effective in protecting users against security threats. The tool now continually checks devices to see if apps are behaving as they are supposed to even after they are installed. This updated tool is now being rolled out. Users don’t need to do anything since their device will automatically get it. It is enabled on a device by default however users who want to disable it can go to Google Settings > Verify apps or Settings > Security > Verify apps depending on the Android version.
Google also announced that “Because potentially harmful applications are very rare, most people will never see a warning or any other indication that they have this additional layer of protection. But we do expect a small number of people to see warnings (which look similar to the existing Verify apps warnings) as a result of this new capability. The good news is that very few people have ever encountered this; in fact, we’ve found that fewer than 0.18% of installs in the last year occurred after someone received a warning that the app was potentially harmful.”
Another safeguard built into Android is the sandboxing feature. This allows apps installed on a device to be controlled in such a way that they do not make a mess of other apps or the operating system itself.