Google still has allegations of staying out of the Play Store while searching for malicious apps. In recent years, however, Google has increasingly sought to improve the security of its digital distributor.
Andrew Ahn, product manager on Google Play, said in a post on the Android Developers blog this week that the company worked on improving abuse detection and machine learning technologies in 2018 while expanding its team of product managers, engineers and policies experts and Operators to fight nefarious app developers.
Ahn said the extra effort has resulted in declined app submissions being 55 percent higher than in 2017. Those who came through were discovered and removed faster than ever, often before anyone could install them.
"These increases are due to our continued efforts to streamline the guidelines for reducing the number of malicious apps in the Play Store and our investments in automated protection and verification processes," wrote the product manager in the post.
Google declined how many dodgy apps came out of the Play Store last year, even though we know the number was at 700,000 in 2017, with 100,000 developers excluded from publishing future apps.
Every day, fifty billion apps are scanned
Ahn said his team's Google Play Protect system not only brings malicious apps to the Play Store, but also scans 50 billion apps a day on users' devices to confirm the security of the installed software.
"With such protection, Google Play apps are eight times less likely to harm one user's device than Android apps from other sources," Ahn wrote. He recalled that Android users are reminded that downloading apps from third-party stores carries additional risks.
The company states that the app rules on users' data and privacy are further tightened. In 2018, tens of thousands of apps were removed that did not comply with Play's guidelines.
Interestingly, Ahn announced that more than 80 percent of the serious violations of the "repeat offenders and abusive developer networks" policies were committed. Also, if banned, many would simply create new accounts or buy developer accounts on the black market before submitting other apps. However, Google's improving technology makes it harder for them to work that way.
Despite Google's undeniable efforts, there will always be malicious apps that are hard to spot. For example, Internet security company Trend Micro – not Google – has recently discovered 29 apps in the Play Store that should not have been there. Some of them sent users to phishing sites or stole photos of users and were reportedly downloaded millions of times before being thrown out of the store.
Ahn even acknowledged that the challenge continued: "Despite our improved and expanded defenses against bad apps, we know that bad actors will continue to try to escape our systems by changing their tactics and veiling bad behavior," he wrote The team will continue to do everything it can to "provide our users with a secure and secure app store."