Google is answering the call to make Android more secure
and less likely to contract a malware infection, at least for users who opt into the company's Advanced Protection Program. This is primarily intended for journalists, activists, business leaders, political campaign teams, and other individuals and organizations at risk of targeted attacks.
This isn't exclusive to Android—it is a free service for Google
accounts that can also be implemented on iPhone devices with the Google Smart Lock app. As it applies to Android, however, Google rolled out some updates that batten down the hatches in an attempt to thwart hackers and other nefarious actors from wreaking havoc.
There are two main changes. The first one involves turning on Play Protect by default. Play Protect is a machine learning service that scans apps on the Google Play Store
for malware, and previous to now, users had the option of disabling it. With the new update, however, it is turned on by default and required to stay on.
"To ensure that people enrolled in our Advanced Protection Program benefit from the added security that Google Play Protect provides, we’re now automatically turning it on for all devices with a Google Account enrolled in Advanced Protection and will require that it remain enabled," Google says.
Somewhat related, the second change involves app installs. Effective immediately, the Advanced Protection Program mostly locks out third-party apps from outside of the Play Store. So if a user is enrolled in the program, they will not be able to grab APKs willy-nilly and install them on their Android
It's not a total lock down, though. Google is still allowing apps to be installed from approved stores, such as ones that might already come installed on certain smartphones (Samsung's Galaxy App Store comes to mind). Same goes for apps installed via Android Debug Bridge (ADB). Additional, any apps already installed from sources outside the Play Store are unaffected—they will not be removed and can still receive updates.
Google says these changes for Android will gradually roll out for Google Accounts enrolled in the program, starting today.