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Android Security Gets a Boost with Google Play Protect

In a timely move given the rash of trojanized apps showing up in the official Google Play store of late, the internet giant has debuted Google Play Protect.

The biggest piece of this is the news that, using machine learning, Google said that it now scans more than 50 billion apps every day to hunt for risks and potentially harmful code. Automated remediation is also part of the enhancement.

“Whether you’re checking email for work, playing Pokémon Go with your kids or watching your favorite movie, confidence in the security of your device and data is important,” said Edward Cunningham, product manager for Android Security, in a blog. “Play Protect is built into every device with Google Play, is always updating, and automatically takes action to keep your data and device safe, so you don’t have to lift a finger.”

Google has also implemented a “Find My Device” feature (something Apple has had for iPhone for quite some time), which allows users to locate, ring, lock and erase Android devices remotely—including phones, tablets and watches.  

The news comes after several instances of bad apps showing up in Google Play. For instance, HummingWhale, a new variant of the HummingBad malware, was found hiding in more than 20 apps on Google Play in January; the infected apps were downloaded several million times by unsuspecting users before the Google Security team removed them. Similarly, The FalseGuide malware was found in April to be infesting 40+ guide apps in the Google Play store; these were uploaded to the app store as early as November 2016, meaning they hid successfully for five months, accumulating an alarming 2 million infected users.

“All Google Play apps go through a rigorous security analysis even before they’re published on the Play Store—and Play Protect warns you about bad apps that are downloaded from other sources too,” Cunningham said. “Play Protect watches out for any app that might step out of line on your device, keeping you and every other Android user safe.”

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