clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Android 4.2 beefs up security with malware scanner for sideloaded apps

New, 47 comments
Android 4.0 welcome robot (STOCK)
Android 4.0 welcome robot (STOCK)

Android 4.2 may not be a revelatory upgrade over Google's original version of Jelly Bean, but one area that's received some significant attention is security. The latest Android release includes a malware scanner that instantly analyzes "sideloaded" apps — those installed from sources other than Google's own store — for potential threats.

Enabling the added security via settings adds a new step to the installation process: Google will sample a given app and compare it to a broad list of "known applications" that combines Play's catalog with popular apps that may not be available in the store. (Purchases made from Amazon's Appstore for Android fall into this category, for instance.) Most installations will proceed as normal, but in the rare event that Google detects a problem, it will prevent things from proceeding any further. "We have a pretty good understanding of the app ecosystem now, whether something's in the Play Store or not," Android VP of Engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer told Computerworld.

Android 4.2 also combats bill shock with a new prompt requiring direct user permission before any app can send messages to short codes — such as those operated by political campaigns or donation funds — that automatically bill your cellular account. Finally, Google has brought minor improvements to the permissions screen that pops up before you download any app. New icons and subsections like "privacy" and "device access" should make the menu easier to parse.