In an effort to combat financial scams, Google has implemented a new program in Singapore aimed at restricting the sideloading of specific apps. The company aims to prevent the installation of apps that misuse Android permissions to access one-time passwords received via SMS and notifications.
According to Google, there are four specific sets of permissions that malicious individuals exploit in order to carry out financial fraud. Based on the survey conducted by the company, it was found that a majority of these apps are sideloaded, meaning they are manually installed onto the device rather than being downloaded from the Play Store.
People with malicious intent frequently abuse these permissions to monitor on-screen content, intercept one-time passwords via SMS or notifications, and more. The company stated in a blog post that their analysis of significant fraud malware families, which exploit sensitive runtime permissions, revealed that more than 95 percent of installations originated from Internet-sideloading sources.
Google announced that users in Singapore will encounter an automatic block when attempting to install certain apps. A message pop-up will appear, notifying the user that the app may request access to sensitive data. There is a heightened potential for identity theft or financial fraud.
Google has partnered with the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) to develop this pilot as a component of its Play Protect program.
In October of last year, the company introduced a real-time scanning protection feature. The initial release of this feature was in India, and its purpose is to prevent users from downloading harmful apps from external sources. In November, TechCrunch conducted a comprehensive test involving more than 30 malicious apps. Although Google’s protection feature managed to block the majority of them, a few predatory loan apps were still able to be installed.
“We have introduced a new feature to Google Play Protect that involves real-time scanning of code to detect and prevent the spread of new types of malicious apps. This scanning applies to apps downloaded from Google Play as well as other sources,” explained Scott Westover, a spokesperson for Google, in an email to TechCrunch.” “The capabilities of Google Play Protect will evolve and improve as it collects and analyzes new types of threats in the Android ecosystem.”
Google has extended the real-time scanning feature to additional regions, such as Thailand, Singapore, and Brazil.
Google recently issued a notification to developers, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the Mobile Unwanted Software principles and following the provided guidelines for their apps. The company has announced its plans to expand the pilot program to other countries.
We are continuously enhancing our security measures to ensure the safety of Android users globally. We will closely monitor the results of the pilot program in collaboration with CSA, evaluating its impact and making any necessary adjustments. In a statement to TechCrunch, Eugene Liderman, Director of Android Security Strategy at Google, expressed openness to expanding the pilot to other countries in the future, provided there is comparable interest and a need for user protection.
Google has faced challenges with fraudulent loan applications in regions such as India and Africa. Google is currently under scrutiny in India due to the actions of predatory loan apps and their representatives, who have been harassing individuals for repayment, tragically leading to some cases of suicide.