Technology

Android 14 to block thousands of outdated or malicious apps

T

he next major version of Android will take an important step towards protecting users from malware and other security threats, by limiting apps that can be installed.

9to5Google spotted changes made to Android’s source code that indicate Android 14 will check whether an app is out of date or not at installation.

Android will look at which version of the software the app was made for and, if that version is too old, it will refuse to install it. This will help to ensure software used on phones and tablets is compliant with a certain level of security, to help avoid the spread of malware.

While this does not see Android get close to the kind of locked-down approach Apple employs, Android 14 will move towards this.

Most notably, the restrictions apply to more advanced users who want to side-load apps. This is where an app is installed using a source other than the Google Play Store.

Power users will have less control, but it avoids nasty software using the weaker protections of old security protocols to infect your devices.

Where did my favourite Android app go?

In an ideal world this would have almost no impact, with developers able to keep their apps updated in perpetuity.

However, that is not the case and such a move will speed up older apps and games’ passage to digital oblivion. Apps you remember from years gone by are more likely to suddenly wink out of existence.  This is something Apple is better known for doing.

In April 2022, Apple sent out warnings to app developers that software left without an update for two years would be removed within 30 days.

Indie developer Protopop Games called this an “unfair barrier to indie devs”, highlighting that decades-old games were still available to buy on consoles.

Are Android apps safe to download?

The disparity of approaches often leads people to wonder if apps are actually safe to download on Android phones and tablets.

To get into the Apple App Store or Google Play, apps and games have to go through a content moderation process. Apple’s is more in-depth than Google’s, but both are designed primarily to avoid any nasties making it into the official stores. And both are effective.

However, these processes are not flawless. In September 2022, researchers from HUMAN’s Satori Threat Intelligence team found 10 App Store apps and 75 Google Play apps perpetrating “ad fraud”.

Still, you are likely to come into problems only if you start installing apps from outside well-known app stores. This can be done easily on Android phones, but not iPhones.

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