Google is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to dangerous apps that try to work their way into the Android ecosystem, and the company prevented 790,000 dangerous apps from being published on the Play Store in 2019 alone.
The app ecosystem remains the primary means for malware to attack mobile devices, and bad actors continually try to take advantage. Even with all the precautions, some apps that might not qualify for malware still fall through the cracks.
For example, Bitdefender has identified apps that smuggled themselves into the Play Store, dodging Google vetting systems and misrepresenting the breadth and scope of the ads they would ordinarily present, had they been legit.
Google revealed some of the measures they took in 2018 and 2019 and shared information about how many apps it thwarted from publishing and how many were removed from the store entirely.
“One of the best ways to protect users from bad apps is to keep those apps out of the Play Store in the first place,” said Google Play and Android App Safety Manager, Andrew Ahn. “Our improved vetting mechanisms stopped over 790,000 policy-violating app submissions before they were ever published to the Play Store.”
The company also explained that a much stricter policy regarding to protect children and families implemented in 2019 forced developers to update or remove tens of thousands of apps.
The entire Google Play Store performs over 100 billion scans every day. With all that scrutiny, bad actors find new ways to obfuscate their intentions with apps. At best, people install apps that deliver innocuous, albeit annoying adware, but the same channels can be used to deliver malware as well.
In 2020, Google aims to detect bad apps much faster than it currently does, to better protect user privacy.