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Android 13 Limits Accessibility Services For Sideloaded Apps

AH Android 13 DP1
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Google is making a crucial change to accessibility services with Android 13 to safeguard devices from malware. Android 13 is adding a new restriction on sideloaded apps, making it even harder to use accessibility services. This is a step in the right direction, considering that most malware attacks infiltrate Android devices through sideloaded apps.

Esper.io notes that Google won’t entirely stop sideloaded apps from accessing accessibility services. Users can grant access by heading over to the app info screen and tapping “allow restricted settings” in the top right corner. This could be helpful for users or developers who like to install non-Play Store apps that they trust. In any case, Google wants to make it more apparent to Android 13 users that sideloading apps could be dangerous.

As Android Police points out, malicious apps could circumvent the new restrictions via the aforementioned “allow restricted settings” feature. So Google could think about bringing additional changes to this feature’s behavior.

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Android 13 won’t restrict third-party app hubs such as the Amazon Appstore

Crucially, Google is only placing restrictions on sideloaded apps. This means customers of other app hubs such as the Amazon Appstore or F-Droid can continue to use accessibility services as usual. This is probably based on the assumption that those app markets screen their apps for malware. Limiting accessibility permissions has impacted call recording apps, in particular. Such apps can no longer leverage the device’s accessibility features to record phone calls.

Accessibility features are built-into devices to aid people with disabilities. It also allows developers to curate features for other purposes, such as call recording or alarm apps. However, the ever-evolving nature of malware and phishing attacks has meant that these tools are also used to infect devices. So it’s understandable that Google wants to discourage developers from using accessibility permissions altogether, or at least limit their use, if necessary.

Google recently released the Android 13 Beta 1, while the second beta is not too far away. Users can install it on their compatible Pixel devices from the link here. We expect several more features to become public as we inch closer towards fall, which is when the stable version will likely begin rolling out.

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Android 13 Accessibility Allow Restricted Settings
Android 13 Accessibility Restricted Settings Allowed
Android 13 Accessibility Dialog
Android 13 Accessibility Allow Restricted Settings
Android 13 Accessibility Restricted Settings Allowed
Android 13 Accessibility Dialog