Q. Can rogue Google app developers still sneak malware onto people’s devices with Android app updates once the app has been initially approved as “safe”?
A. Keeping deceptive and malicious apps out of online stores in a continuing battle for Google, as it is for Apple, Microsoft and other companies that invite outside developers to create and sell applications through official channels. Scammers have recently added new tactics to get their wares onto devices, like hiding code in flashlight and utility apps and releasing “multistage” malware that shows no initial security threat — but gradually updates itself with more sinister software once it is installed.
Last year, Google announced a new security service for Android devices called Google Play Protect, which tries to thwart more malicious activity. Google Play Protect scans apps for safety before you download them to your device and then scans the apps on your device for malware to warn you of any security concerns. Newer forms of malicious software were originally able to evade detection, but after third-party security researchers notified the company of the deceptive apps, Google used its Play Protect software to remotely remove the malware from devices.
You can see the Google Play Protect settings on your device by opening the Google Play store icon, tapping the menu button in the upper-left corner and selecting Play Protect. The Play Protect screen shows the apps that Google has scanned recently for security issues and includes controls for disabling the scans after apps have been downloaded.