Skip to main content

Google Play Protect makes security on Android devices easier to access

Google Play Protect features are here to keep you safe on the Google Play Store

google play protect news rsz 1rsz img 0414
Image used with permission by copyright holder
These days, it’s an unusual week when a new exploit, virus, or botnet isn’t uncovered, and that is increasingly true on mobile devices. To combat the growing problem, Google is rolling out Google Play Protect, a new security platform that brings transparency to Android’s anti-malware protections.

One component of Google Play Protect is a new antivirus hub that shows which apps have been scanned for malware. Verify Apps, the feature on Android Phones that protects against malware, exploits, and other viruses in real time, shows which apps have been recently scanned in a carousel menu, and when the most recent scan was completed. This feature was recently enabled — so you can head to the “Updates” section of Google Play to check it out now. On top of that, you’ll see a new Protect menu item in the Google Play Store, from which you can do things like see a list of recently scanned apps or disable devices scanning.

Another is Find My Device, a rebrand of Google’s location-tracking Android Device Manager.

The new Find My Device app, just like Android Device Manager before it, lets you easily locate, lock, and erase an Android device associated with your Google account. That same support extends to smartwatches powered by Android Wear.

Find My Device puts your devices front and center. Once you sign in with your Google credentials, you will see your phones, smartwatches, and tablets represented by icons at the top, which replace the old app’s drop-down menu. Tapping a device pulls up options to sound an audible alarm, lock it, or factory reset it. You will also see its current Wi-Fi status and battery life, as well as its rough geographic location on a Google Maps screen.

If your device doesn’t have a lock screen, Find My Device lets you enter a password you can use to unlock it when you find it. Alternatively, you can add a message or phone number where a good Samaritan can reach you if they find it.

The overhaul is long overdue. Google launched Android Device Manager in 2013, shortly after that year’s I/O conference, as an answer to Apple’s Find My iPhone service. Before then, managing an Android phone remotely required downloading and installing a third-party solution.

Google Play Protect is the latest in Google’s wide-ranging effort to improve Android security.

The search giant has worked with 351 wireless carriers to improve the time it takes to test security patches before deploying them to users, an effort that has resulted in a reduction of the software approval process from between six and nine weeks to just one week. It has doled out $1 million to independent security researchers, an amount that’s on track to reach $2 million next year. And it has pursued an aggressive strategy of encryption — as of December, 80 percent of Android 7.x (Nougat) users use encryption.

Adrian Ludwig, director of Android security at Google, sees social engineering — attacks that fool a user into installing an app that compromises his or her device’s security — as one of the biggest challenges facing app developers today. “People don’t want to think about security,” he told members of the press at the RSA conference in February. “They just want it to be that way.”

Update: Some consumer-facing Google Play Protect features in Google Play Store now rolling out.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
Virtual payment cards boost security in Chrome and Android
App list showing both Google Pay and GPay

Google is beefing up the financial safety aspect for its Chrome browser and Android smartphone users. Say hello to virtual cards, a system that replaces the actual bank-assigned unique number for a credit or debit card with a virtual set of numbers. The idea is to keep the original card information safe as users are no longer required to manually enter card details every time they make an online purchase.

Announced at the Google I/O 2022 event, the virtual card system has been designed for the autofill system on Android and Chrome for storing sensitive banking details. “If you enroll a virtual card for Autofill, you can keep your actual card number hidden when you check out on merchant websites,” says Google.

Read more
Google’s newest app makes it easier to switch to Android
The iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra held in hand.

After a soft launch last week, Google today confirmed it was making its "Switch to Android" app available to users on the App store. Much like Apple's equivalent Move to iOS app for Android users, the app tries to speed up the process of moving to Google's ecosystem, albeit, with a few snags.

You can find the app available at the App Store, with Google saying to TechCrunch that it'll become available worldwide over the next few days.

Read more
Google launches Switch to Android app to chirping crickets
Switch to Android app displaying Step 2 of 4 for transferring data from iPhone to new Android device.

Google has quietly launched the Switch to Android app on the App Store to the sound of chirping crickets. As reported by TechCrunch, the tech giant rolled out the app on Monday to make it easier for users who want to switch to an Android device, whether they want to try out Android for the first time or they just miss having one of the best Android phones in their hand. It was a quiet launch, so nobody paid any mind to it -- until now.

The Switch to Android website gives you steps on how to copy all the data in your iPhone -- contacts, photos, videos, calendar events, etc. -- and send them to the new Android device of your choice. It also instructs you to turn off iMessage, so you'll be able to see important text messages once you open your new device, and request Apple to transfer a copy of your data from iCloud. The app works in a similar manner to Move to iOS, which Apple launched in 2015 to ease users' transition from Android to iPhone.

Read more