Google begins blocking sideloading of potentially dangerous Android apps in Singapore

Android Apps

Google has unveiled a new pilot program in Singapore that aims to prevent users from sideloading certain apps that abuse Android app permissions to read one-time passwords and collect sensitive data.

“This enhanced fraud protection automatically analyzes and blocks the installation of apps that can use sensitive runtime permissions that are often abused for financial fraud when the user tries to install the app from an internet sideloading source (web browsers, messaging apps, etc.) apps or file managers), ” the company said.

The feature is designed to examine the permissions declared by a third-party app in real time and look for permissions that try to access sensitive permissions related to reading text messages, deciphering or ignoring notifications from legitimate apps and accessibility services that are routinely exploited by Android-based malware to extract valuable information.

As part of the test, users in Singapore who attempt to sideload such apps (or APK files) will be blocked via Google Play Protect and will see a pop-up message saying: “This app may request access to sensitive data. This may increase the risk of identity theft or financial fraud.”

“These permissions are often abused by fraudsters to intercept one-time passwords via text message or notifications, and to spy on screen content,” said Eugene Liderman, director of mobile security strategy at Google.

The change is part of a concerted effort to combat mobile fraud, the tech giant said, urging app developers to follow best practices and review the device permissions of their apps to ensure they don’t break the rules violate. Principles of mobile unwanted software.

Android apps

Google, which launched Google Play Protect real-time code-level scanning to detect new Android malware in select markets such as India, Thailand, Singapore and Brazil, said the effort enabled it to detect 515,000 new malicious apps and no fewer than 3.1 million warnings or blocks of those apps.

The development also comes as Apple announced major changes to the App Store in the European Union to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) ahead of the March 6, 2024, deadline. The changes, including Notarization for iOS apps, are expected to go live with iOS 17.4.

However, the iPhone maker has repeatedly emphasized that the distribution of iOS apps via alternative app marketplaces exposes EU users to “increased privacy and security threats”, and that there is no intention to bring them to other regions.

“This includes new opportunities for malware, fraud and scams, illegal and malicious content, and other privacy and security threats,” Apple said. said. “These changes also compromise Apple’s ability to detect, prevent, and take action on malicious apps on iOS and to support users affected by issues with apps downloaded outside the App Store.”

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