Google has begun a trial program in Singapore to prevent users from sideloading certain apps that misuse Android permissions. With this, Google intends to protect users by limiting the ability of potentially harmful applications to access and exploit sensitive user information.
According to Google, there are four permission sets that bad actors exploit to commit financial fraud – “intercept one-time passwords via SMS or notifications, as well as spy on-screen content,” mostly through sideloaded apps – apps installed manually rather than through the Play Store. Google says this program aims to reduce financial scams by restricting the installation of sideloaded apps that collect sensitive data, like one-time passwords that are received through SMS or notifications.
“This enhanced fraud protection will analyse and automatically block the installation of apps that may use sensitive runtime permissions frequently abused for financial fraud when the user attempts to install the app from an Internet-sideloading source (web browsers, messaging apps or file managers),” the company said.
If a user in Singapore tries to download any of the apps suspected to be fraudulent, Google will step in and show a warning message. The message will state that the app can access the user’s sensitive personal data, increasing the chances of identity theft or financial fraud. By preventing the installation of these apps and displaying the warning message, Google said it is taking measures to safeguard users from scam apps that exploit their permissions.
Last October, Google introduced a new feature called Google Play Protect that scans the code of Android apps in real-time to detect new malware. This feature is currently available in select markets like India, Thailand, Singapore, and Brazil. Google said that with Play Protect, the company was able to identify 515,000 new malicious apps and issued 3.1 million warnings or blocks for those apps.
While Google is stopping users from sideloading apps on Android, Apple is being forced to open iOS to third-party apps in the EU as it complies with the Digital Markets Act. However, the iPhone maker emphasised that alternative iOS app stores “expose the EU users to increased privacy and security threats” with “new avenues for malware, fraud, and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats.” Apple said such changes also “compromise [its] ability to detect, prevent, and take action against malicious apps on iOS.”

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