Google is expanding the feature set for its Advanced Protection Program, a security offering that helps safeguard Google Accounts of those at risk for targeted attacks -- like politicians, journalists, activists, business leaders and others. The program already provides an increased level of protection for these accounts by limiting access to data, blocking fraudulent account access, supporting the use of physical security keys and more. Today, Google is adding new malware protections to the program, as well.
For starters, those enrolled in the Advanced Protection Program will have Google Play Protect automatically enabled. This is Google's built-in malware protection for Android that's currently used to scan and verify 100 billion apps per day, Google notes. The system uses machine learning to automatically scan users' devices and apps to check for harmful behavior and potential security issues. Now, this will be enabled for Advanced Protection Program members and will not be able to be shut off.
The program will also now limit users' ability to install apps from outside the Play Store, where apps are now scanned for malware before approval. Those from outside the store can present a greater risk. Google will now prevent the download of non-Play Store apps on any devices enrolled in the Advanced Protection Program, with a few exceptions. Users will be able to install non-Play Store apps through other third-party app stores that may have shipped on your device from the device manufacturer. Others can be installed through the developer tool Android Debug Bridge. However, Google says non-Play Store apps that have already been installed won't be removed and can continue to be updated.
Google launched its Advanced Protection Program in fall 2017, as an opt-in option for those who believe they're at increased risk of online attacks. The program focuses on defending against phishing, locking down malicious apps, and fending off hackers. The trade-off is reduced convenience as there are additional steps to take during authentication and more limitations on what can be done. But the result is a safer, and free, way to increase the security of your account and device.
The new added protections will roll out gradually to accounts enrolled in the Advanced Protection Program on Android devices, to be later this year followed by new malware protections for Chrome, Google says. However, G Suite users won't get these new protections now -- instead, they're offered through endpoint management, which helps secure devices belonging to mobile workforces.