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Google plays a strong hand with new Android security features

Google last week announced Android security features that continue to heighten the company’s enterprise mobility game.

Enterprise security features from the big mobile operating systems, Google Android and Apple iOS, have been a hot topic for years. Now, with BlackBerry down for the count and cyberattacks becoming more advanced, new security capabilities from these OSes are more significant than ever.

Due to fragmentation and issues with malware, experts often saw Google’s OS as sub-par compared to Apple’s when it came to enterprise security. Not so much anymore. Android 7.0 Nougat added support for seamless updates, allowing the OS and apps to be patched in the background — making users less likely to avoid installing important security updates. The company in December even dropped the Android for Work brand name, given that most Android devices now ship with the enterprise security features built in.

All work and all Play

Google took further security steps at its I/O developer conference last week, with Play Protect and new features in the upcoming Android O.

Google Play Protect will be built into devices that have the Google Play store. The service continuously scans all apps on the device for vulnerabilities or other issues, and through machine learning, gathers information over time that allows it to intelligently find threats. Play Protect can also let users know if an app is dangerous and prevent them from downloading it or remove it from their device. The Verify Apps service did this previously, but the new service steps up the machine learning element and makes the scans more visible in the Play Protect app.

“For employees, Google Play Protect […] allows them to work confidently and productively without worrying about harmful apps,” said Travis McCoy, senior product manager at Google, in a blog post. “And using our Android enterprise management features, IT managers can enforce this protection by policy.”

Also in Android O, the code name for the next OS version, is improved IT control over file-based encryption, greater controls over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth restrictions, additional management capabilities around work profiles, and more. In a stand against ransomware, the OS will now close off permissions that previously would allow an attacker to take control of an infected device. Plus, developers can now build the ability for pop-up notifications to time out, or disappear after a certain amount of time on screen, providing more security for sensitive information that may appear.

Android O is now in public beta, so users, developers and IT admins will have plenty of chance to check out those and other new enterprise security features to see how Google is keeping up.