Google has long used its Verify Apps feature to target possible malware before it can affect our phones, but it has always been a behind-the-scenes service. Unless there was an app that Google labeled unsafe and prompted us to remove, there was no way to see if Verify Apps was actually, well, verifying apps.
Google is now starting to show its work. In addition to a detailed blog post that outlines how Verify Apps does its job, Google has tweaked the menu in settings to display a little more information about what it’s doing. Instead of an option in the the Security menu in Settings (or in the Google tab on Pixels and some other phones), Verify Apps now occupies its own tab. Tap it and you’ll see the same two toggles to “Scan device for security threats” and “Improve harmful app detection,” but you’ll also get a look at the last four apps it has scanned as well as the number of apps that were previously checked.
Google’s communications and public affairs manager Elijah Lawal has also explained the way Verify Apps stops potentially harmful apps from infecting your system. As he describes in the post, “Verify Apps is a cloud-based service that proactively checks every application prior to install to determine if the application is potentially harmful, and subsequently rechecks devices regularly to help ensure they’re safe.”
While Android security buffs won’t find anything new in the blog post, Google says that it checks more than 6 billion apps on some 400 million devices every day. However, it should be noted that while Verify Apps is an excellent measure of protection against apps downloaded outside of the Play Store, it’s not perfect. And because a rogue app can get into your system and turn off Verify apps, it’s good practice to routinely check your phone’s Settings to see of it’s enabled, especially if you side-load a lot of your apps.
Trust and verify: While malware will be a concern on Android phones until the end of time, Google’s methods here are commendable. But while it’s certainly cool that Google is showing us which apps have been scanned and approved, Verify Apps is hardly foolproof. A little peace of mind is certainly appreciated, but you should still exercise an abundance of caution when installing any app that isn’t coming from the Play Store. Verify Apps is a fantastic line of defense against the places where most malware originate, but, as always, the best defense is vigilance.