Google Can Now Keep Your Phone Safe From Malware in Real-Time





people looking at phones

Even the most tech savvy person isn’t immune to cybercriminal schemes. As our world grows more digital, bad actors find new ways to swindle and steal from people. Just this year, 8.9 million Android devices — including phones, watches and televisions — were found to be pre-infected with Guerilla malware.

Earlier this week Google said it plans to upgrade Google Play Protect’s security capabilities to provide deep, real-time scanning to combat malicious apps. When installing apps that haven’t been cleared yet, Play Protect will recommend a scan to detect for potential threats.

“Scanning will extract important signals from the app and send them to the Play Protect backend infrastructure for a code-level evaluation,” Google said in a blog post. “Once the real-time analysis is complete, users will get a result letting them know if the app looks safe to install or if the scan determined the app is potentially harmful.”

Play Protect’s upgrade increases its ability to spot “malicious polymorphic apps,” or apps that can change their features to avoid detection, that tap into newer tech, like artificial intelligence, to fly under the radar.

The update is rolling out to Android devices with Google Play in India and other select countries, with a wider release planned in the coming months.

Image credit: Google

Once the feature arrives on your device, you’ll get a prompt when Play Protect detects an app it hasn’t scanned yet.

“Play Protect hasn’t seen this app before. To protect your device and data, send some info about the app to Google for scanning before you install,” the pop-up reads. From there, you can choose to scan the app or cancel installation.

While sequestered at home during the pandemic in 2020, the amount of time people spent on their phones skyrocketed. In a 2021 survey conducted by Statista, almost 50% of responders said they spent five to six hours on their phones daily. The numbers have since dropped, but not by much, with the average person spending 4.8 hours on their phone per day.

It’s important to know how to keep yourself safe as scammers ramp up efforts to defraud cord cutters.

Cybercriminals sometimes list fake customer service phone numbers online in an attempt to charge callers for customer service or get them to sign up for services they don’t need.

If you want to cancel or make changes to a subscription, make sure you’re getting the information directly from the company’s website. This might seem like a given, but phony websites can look pretty real. Instead of Googling how to cancel the subscription, visit the provider’s website and search for its FAQ. This also goes for finding a company’s customer service number. Scammers can pose as customer service representatives to steal your credit card information.

It’s also beneficial to familiarize yourself with phishing scams. Bad actors will use email or text messages with cleverly worded requests designed to get you to respond with your personal information. These messages often try to convince you that your payment method failed or your account is compromised — an ask you to click a link to fix it. Do not click the link — even if it sounds urgent.

Scammers use manipulation tactics that prey on your emotions and have gotten increasingly good at it over the years. If you’re uncertain about the status of your account — check your account through the service’s website.

If you think you’ve been targeted by a scam, you can report it to the FCC or file an informal complaint.

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