Google prevented almost a million malicious apps from being published on Google Play in 2020. As in previous years, Google has shared a report on how they have dealt with the various threats and malicious developers on their Google Play app store. It’s not as comprehensive a report as last year’s, but it does leave us with some insight into the battle of Google Play against malware.
In the release, Google has shared the steps taken during 2020 to improve the security and reliability of Google Play, as well as some statistics. Google’s systems prevented nearly one million applications that violated the policies.
Google Play policy changes
The company has summarized the main changes introduced in the Google Play policies to improve the reliability and security of published apps:
- Special rules for COVID-19 apps. Google introduced a set of specific rules for coronavirus-related apps, removing all superfluous apps and allowing only those that were endorsed by official organizations.
- Special rules for news apps. Similarly, news apps had to follow a set of minimum requirements in order to be published on Google Play, including transparency about the source and authorship of the content.
- Special attention to elections. During 2020 and coinciding with the U.S. elections, Google created a special team of app reviewers to address potential threats and abuses in its store.
- Limiting permissions. In 2020, Google began asking developers to limit background location access. Without a clear reason, an app that continues to use the permission can end up being removed from Google Play.
- Kids tab. In April last year, Google Play changed the Family tab to Kids, with a selection of teacher-approved apps.
- Better support. Support for developers has always been an element of friction, and Google claims to have optimized its processes to improve this communication. As a result, the time it takes to process appeals has been significantly reduced.
According to what Google has shared, every day its Play Protect security system analyzes 100 billion installed applications and, although we do not know how many of them turn out to be malware. Google usually publishes a specific report regarding this data.
We only find out about that malware when, unfortunately, it ends up reaching users, but Google wanted to give us visibility into the process behind it. During 2020, automated systems and manual reviewers prevented 962,000 malicious apps from reaching the store.
In addition, 119,000 malicious or spammy app developers have been banned from the Google Store, preventing them from continuing to publish apps, at least not without first creating a new account.