pcmag.comWe review products independently, but we may earn affiliate commissions from buying links on this page. Terms of use. Google has recruited three cybersecurity companies to help it scan Android apps for malware before they get listed on the Google Play Store. The company's App Defense Alliance promises to stamp out the chances you'll download secretly malicious software from Google's official app store. Previously, Google relied on its own malware-scanning engine to vet apps before they were listed on the Play Store. Now it will also use ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium to further vet apps for potentially malicious processes. "This will generate new app risk intelligence as apps are being queued to publish. Partners will analyze that dataset and act as another, vital set of eyes prior to an app going live on the Play Store," Google's vice president for Android security Dave Kleidermacher wrote in today's announcement. The risk of you downloading malware from Google's official app store is already pretty low. Last year, only 0.08 percent of devices that used Google Play exclusively for app downloads were affected by potentially harmful applications, according to the company's own stats. Nevertheless, hackers are finding ways to bypass Google's protections to sneak malware or adware into the Play Store. In some cases, the hackers pull this off by scrambling the app's computer code to hide the malicious processes. Other tricks can involve hijacking a legitimate developer's app, and secretly seeding it with adware. Once published, the bad apps can then get downloaded thousands or millions of times before outside security researchers notice them. The new alliance from Google will now give third-party security researchers at ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium a chance to flag the bad apps before they appear on the store. "What was previously a reactive effort to catch security vulnerabilities is now a full-fledged and proactive campaign to protect billions of consumers and businesses at the source," ESET security evangelist Tony Anscombe said in a statement. As a side benefit, the security firms will also get access to the Google Play Protect malware-scanning engine to check Android apps for suspicious processes. A Google spokesperson told PCMag the company will consider expanding the alliance in the future. But for now, "we are starting with a select group of partners in order to ensure the program is effective." "We hand-picked these partners based on their successes in finding potential threats and their dedication to improving the ecosystem. These partners are regularly recognized in analyst reports for their work," Kleidermacher added. Google also doesn't expect the extra vetting to lead to any "meaningful" slowdown in getting apps published to the store. If you're worried about app-based malware, you can download an antivirus Android app, many of which are free and often designed to point out potential privacy threats as well.

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