Protect against harmful apps

Some of this information applies only to devices running Android 5.0 and higher. If your device is running 4.4 or lower, the Menu icon looks like this . If your device is running 4.3 or lower, the Settings icon looks like this .

Some applications can harm you or your device. We recommend you download from trusted sources, like the Google Play Store. You can also turn on app verification if you download from outside of Google Play—this makes sure the apps you install are scanned for malware before and after you install them on your device.

App security on Google Play

The Google Play Store helps protect your device by blocking potentially harmful apps. Before an app is published to Google Play, it's reviewed to make sure it's not harmful.

Here are additional tips to help you avoid harmful apps.

Tip 1: Review app reviews, star ratings, and download counts

Check app reviews and download counts to see what other people are saying about an app.

Using the Play Store app

  1. Open the Play Store app Google Play.
  2. Visit the app's detail page.
  3. Under the app title, review the star ratings and number of downloads.
  4. Scroll down to read individual reviews.

Using your computer

  1. Go to Google Play.
  2. Visit the app's detail page.
  3. Under "Reviews," look at the star ratings and number of downloads.
  4. Select individual reviews.
Tip 2: Report bad apps to Google

If you've found an app that you think is harmful, report it to us.

Downloading from sources other than Google Play

You can allow your device to download apps from sources other than Google Play by turning on the "Unknown sources" feature.

IMPORTANT: Your phone and personal data are vulnerable to attack by apps from unknown sources. If you allow downloading apps from unknown sources, be aware that your phone may be damaged or lose data.

  1. On your device, open the Settings app .
  2. Under "Personal," touch Security.
  3. Turn on Unknown sources.

Turn app verification on or off

The "Verify apps" feature regularly checks activity on your device and prevents or warns you about potential harm. If you have a device with multiple users, only the device's owner can turn verification on or off.

  1. On your device, open the Google Settings app .
  2. Touch Security.
  3. Under "Verify apps," turn Scan device for security threats on or off. When this setting is on, it regularly checks your device activity and prevents or warns about potential harm.

Ways you'll be warned about potentially harmful apps on your device

With "Verify apps" turned on, your device will check apps when you install them and periodically scan for potentially harmful apps.

Verify at app installation

With app verification turned on, your device will do one of the following when you try to install an app outside of Google Play:

  • Recommend that you do not install the app
  • Block the installation of the app completely if there is a security threat to your device

When you try to install an app, your device may send information to Google identifying the app, including log information, URLs related to the app, device ID, your OS version, and IP address.

Scan for harmful apps on your device

When app verification is turned on, the installed apps on your device are periodically scanned. If a potentially harmful app is detected, "Verify apps" may take the following action:

  • Recommend that you immediately uninstall the app
  • Remove an app that is known to be unsafe from your device

Improve harmful app detection

When you choose to verify apps, Google also receives anonymous information about any apps installed outside of the Google Play Store. This helps Google to better protect users against harmful apps.

To change this setting:

  1. On your device, open the Google Settings app .
  2. Touch Security.
  3. Move the switch next to "Improve harmful app detection" on or off.

This feature may not apply to all apps since some developers may choose to disable this feature so that their apps aren't submitted for review.

hc_author_kelly

Kaley is on the Accounts support team and author of this help page. Please leave suggestions below on how to improve her article.

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