The most recently discovered flaw in WhatsApp, which made it possible for hackers to remotely insert malware or spyware onto affected phones without the user knowing, yet again highlights the need for all of us to keep a close eye on the apps we have installed. Google Play Protect helps us do exactly that, scanning up to 50 billion apps every day, not only on the Play Store, but also on your Android devices. It also allows us to scan on demand and to check app updates before they are installed.
Scan Apps with Play Protect
Play Protect will automatically scan your device and apps, making sure that you are as safe as possible. It also scans billions of apps on the Play Store daily.
Play Protect should be enabled by default on your Android device, but it is worth checking to make sure. You can open the Play Protect screen in a couple of ways: Either open the main settings and go to the Security section (the exact section varies between devices. On Samsung it is in Biometrics & Security) and tap Play Protect. Alternatively, open the Play Store app, tap the menu button > Play Protect.
Once on the Play Protect screen, you can see if any harmful apps have been detected, which apps have recently been scanned, and the date and time of the last scan. If, however, Play Protect is turned off, you will see none of this. Instead you will see the warning that “Full scanning turned off”. Tap the gear/settings icon and enable “Scan device for security threats”. It is a bad idea to use your Android device with Play Protect turned off…
To manually scan your device and apps, tap the scan button on the Play Protect screen (circular arrow button). The scan shouldn’t take too long, but times will vary depending on how many apps you have installed on your device.
Verifying Apps During Installation
When installing apps through the Google Play Store, you should always look for the “Verified by Play Protect” notice that appears on the app info screen when you tap the install button. This doesn’t mean that the app will always be safe, but that it is safe at the time of installation.
Scanning App Updates
Play Protect should automatically app updates as they become available. You can, however, choose to scan the updates manually before you allow them to be installed.
Open the Play Store app, and tap the menu button. Tap “My apps & games” and you will see all of the currently available updates. At the top of the list you should see the Play Protect icon, alongside “No problems found” (hopefully…) To scan the updates, tap the scan button (the circular arrow).