Google is testing blocking third-party Android apps with dangerous privileges

Google engineers are launching a pilot project to combat financial fraud. Android will automatically block APK files that request access to dangerous permissions.

APK files are usually distributed through third-party sites and app stores, allowing them to be installed without Google Play. Such sites lack security checks, so APK files may contain malware. In addition, attackers often use social engineering to convince victims to install a malicious app from unreliable sources.

According to Google, Android users lost more than a trillion dollars to fraud in 2023, with 78% of respondents having experienced scam attempts.

In October 2023, Google Play Protect received a new security feature that scans apps in real time, including those downloaded from third-party stores. The feature has been rolled out in several major markets and identified 515,000 unwanted apps, preventing 3.1 million installations.

To strengthen protection against unwanted apps, Google is launching a pilot project in Singapore. As part of it, Android will automatically block the installation of APKs that have requested access to certain permissions. Thus, potential dangers will be considered:

– RECEIVE_SMS: Attackers can intercept one-time passwords and authentication codes received via SMS to gain unauthorized access to accounts.
– READ_SMS: Used to read sensitive information, including banking messages, without the user’s knowledge.
– BIND_Notifications: Allows attackers to read or delete notifications, including security alerts and OTP.
Accessibility is permission that helps users with limited capabilities but can also be abused by a malicious APK to gain full control of the device.
Hackers can use this permission to track user activity, retrieve data, and execute commands, often resulting in device compromise.

Google announced an upcoming experiment in Singapore: if a user tries to install an app from the internet and requests one of four dangerous permissions, Play Protect will automatically block the installation, providing the user with an explanation.

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