The Google Play app store has been known to be a bit of the wild wild west. There were copycat apps, apps with adult content, and apps with malware or spyware. Google now has some proof that they’ve been hard at work putting an end to all of the nonsense. In a recent report, Google said they removed more than 700,000 malicious apps last year. That’s 70% more than they removed in 2016. They say that most of the removed apps were copycats and many contained pornography or extreme violence, both of which are against the Play store policies. Most importantly of all, of the apps that were removed, 90% were rejected before they even made it to the store. This means they were never able to deceive users.
This is very good news for Android users. It means that Google’s algorithms, AI, and “machine learning, techniques are working well and keeping apps that could put your security at risk from ever being installed on your phone. The openness of Google’s play store was always a major reason I wouldn’t own an Android phone. This update, as I said, is proof of how serious Google is taking security. There is still, however, a major risk associated with the use of an Android phone. It is a popular reason some folks prefer Android even though it is against their recommended usage policies. No matter how secure the Google Play store becomes, you aren’t protected if you are downloading apps and other files from other sites and apps. “Sideloading” apps is not recommended by Google and can put your security at risk.
What Parents Should Know
I spoke with a mom of a young teenager a few months ago about some strange stats on her monitoring software on his Android phone. It turns out, while she had turned off app downloads to keep him from installing adult apps or time wasters, he had been finding other ways to install apps on his phone. The Google Play Store removing unsecured and malicious apps can keep your kids safe from some of the dangers out there but if they are installing apps in other ways, you’ve lost all confidence that they’re protected. You should have some sort of monitoring software installed. Use something like unGlue, Accountable2You, or Circle to monitor what your kids are doing on their phones and keep an eye out for apps that don’t seem legit.
A good way to know if they are sideloading apps is by looking for the term “APK Installer” in their recent activity. If you have the phone set to ask for permission or to disallow app installation and you see the “APK Installer” running, they may be sideloading. My advice is to keep an eye out for this and if you see it, ask them about what apps they are using. Maybe even have a look at what is installed on their phone. If you don’t recognize the app, do some research and uninstall it if you don’t approve. Most importantly, talk to your child about the importance of only downloading approved apps from the Google Play store. Let them know is as much about internet privacy and security as it is keeping them away from inappropriate content. Google is doing their part by monitoring and managing their app store, you can do yours as a parent by keeping an eye on what your kids are using on their Android device.