Google Play Product Manager, Andrew Ahn, issued a blog post on the official Android Developers Blog earlier this week where he explained the goals and methods used to keep the Google Play Store secure for users throughout 2018, while talking about the measures which will be taken over the course of this year in order to prevent malicious apps from hitting the storefront.
Through both automated and non-automated systems designed to detect and prevent malicious apps from being released on the Android ecosystem, the Google Play Store got rid of 55-percent more application submissions in 2018, while app suspensions increased by over 66-percent. These systems are expected to improve throughout 2019 and offer a higher level of security to Android smartphone users.
The three main goals for Google is to protect user privacy, maintain developer integrity, and fight against harmful application containing inappropriate content. Thousands of applications have either been rejected or removed last year because they weren’t complying with the storefront’s user data and privacy policies, and additional policies will be set in place throughout 2019.
One such policy was announced last October establishing new restrictions for Call Log and SMS app permissions, enforcing developers to restrict access to these components only to apps that have been selected by the users to act as the default solutions for sending messages or performing calls. Google has now started removing applications that don’t conform to this new rule.
The tech giant is also looking to improve the detection system of malicious developers, specifically those who are found to circumvent the Google Play rules by acquiring developer accounts on the black market in order to return to the platform after being banned. Google claims that repeat offenders and abusive developer networks account for more than 80-percent of all the severe policy violations, and the company will continue to enhance its account matching technologies through both automated systems and human reviewers in order to prevent these developers from spamming the storefront.
Google is also taking further steps to prevent the publishing of mobile apps featuring inappropriate content, similar to the recent “beauty” camera apps reported by Trend Micro earlier this month, as well as other Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs). This includes apps containing backdoors, commercial spyware, hostile downloaders, and applications designed to execute denial-of-service attacks without the user’s knowledge, among other malicious behaviors.
To detect these apps and preventing them from posing a threat to Android smartphone users, Google will continue to apply advanced machine learning algorithms and utilize data from static and dynamic analyses as well as human reviewers.
According to a recent Statista report, the Google Play Store hosted roughly 2.6 million applications in December 2018, down from 3.5 million applications recorded a year before. The number of apps available on the storefront since 2009 peaked at around 3.6 million in March 2018, and since then it’s been in decline.
In the real world, the tech giant reveals that the Google Play Protect system is performing daily scans of more than 50 billion applications installed on Android smartphones around the globe. According to Google's statistics, the Play Protect system makes apps acquired through the Play Store eight times safer than applications downloaded through other channels. Meanwhile, Google’s own applications continue to be the most popular solutions available on the platform, which is to be expected given that the tech giant covers a wide app spectrum ranging from Gmail to YouTube.