Google rolled out a free Android application Thursday that targets users by warning of malware. Google Inc. hopes the app will help thwart criminals from stealing information about potential users from security companies that contract with the search giant to provide software.
The program, dubbed Mobile Security, provides smartphone users with a customized version of the service that, in a reading of a developer’s code, also protects those users from malicious apps.
“We’re confident this will help improve security among Android users, and get a head start in fighting malware,” said Ingrid Lunden, senior product manager for Google Android.
It was unclear how many users have been affected by the new program.
Google said it detects applications pre-installed with apps from a vendor that advertises its software as malware. Android users download the apps and install them. That opens the software up to the possibility of unwanted apps.
“We continue to do our best to monitor and remove apps that are not properly reviewed,” Google told The Wall Street Journal in an email.
Users installing the new Android software will get a SMS alert that offers their smartphone’s owner information, said Lunden. The digital signature on the downloaded application will likely resemble that of a smartphone’s encrypted PIN. When the new program detects an application, Google switches off the application, however, and allows the user to turn it back on.
Mobile Security is the latest effort by Google to thwart app abuse, a growing problem in which the majority of smartphone users may be unwittingly installed with malware or malicious software. The Mountain View, California-based company has been trying to curb the emergence of apps by highlighting dangerous software and by blocking them from using Google’s system.
Google helped block thousands of app submissions to its Android Market, which houses the most popular applications, the company said in December. That move followed a firestorm last year, when researchers discovered app files that sold complete phone swaps, or swap’s by, in an apparent effort to sell criminals hundreds of dollars worth of phones.
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