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. You can choose to verify apps that you download from the Internet in order to help prevent harmful software from being installed on your device.

The Google Play Store helps prevent harmful software from being installed on your device by blocking potentially harmful apps. If you install apps from other sources, you can turn on app verification to make sure the apps you install are scanned for malware. You'll also need to allow your device to download apps from sources other than the Google Play Store.

Download apps from sources other than Google Play

To be able to download apps from sources other than the Google Play Store, you'll have to turn on the "Unknown sources" feature on your device. Your phone and personal data are more vulnerable to attack by apps from unknown sources.

  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under "Personal," touch Security.
  3. Turn on "Unknown sources."

Turn app verification on or off

To verify apps you want to install from sources other than the Google Play Store, follow the instructions below. If you have a device with multiple users, only the device's owner can turn verification on or off.

  1. Open the Google Settings app on your device.
  2. Touch Security.
  3. 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 app verification turned on, your device will verify apps when you install them, as well as 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 follow 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, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Settings app on your device.
  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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