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Protect against harmful apps

Some apps can harm you or your device. We recommend downloading from trusted sources, like the Google Play Store.

If you'd like to download from outside Google Play, you can turn on app verification. This makes sure that apps are scanned for malware before and after you install them on your device.

Note: Some of this information may not apply to all devices because Android isn't exactly the same on every device. These instructions are for devices with Android 6.0 and up. See what version of Android you have.

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 some tips to help you avoid harmful apps:

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

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

On the Play Store app

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

On 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.

Download from sources other than Google Play

You can let your device 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 download apps from unknown sources, be aware that your phone may be damaged or lose data.

  1. Open your device's Settings app Settings.
  2. Under "Personal," tap 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. Open your device's Settings app Settings.
  2. Under "Personal," tap 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 your device warns you about potentially harmful apps

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, when you try to install an app outside of Google Play, your device will do one of these things:

  • Recommend that you don't install the app
  • Block the installation of the app completely (if there's 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 actions:

  • 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. Open your device's Settings app Settings.
  2. Under "Personal," tap Security.
  3. Under "Device administrators," tap Unknown sources.

This feature may not apply to all apps. Some developers may choose to turn off this feature so that their apps aren't submitted for review.

hc_author_ashley

Ashley is an Accounts expert and the author of this help page. Leave her feedback below about how to improve it.

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