Strengthened app safety policies, a better developer approval process, and enhancements to its machine learning detection system made the Google Play Store an even more secure place last year, according to Google’s 2019-in-review blog post this week.

“Last year, Google Play Protect also prevented more than 1.9B malware installs from non-Google Play sources,” Google Play Product Manager Andrew Ahn wrote in reference to Android’s built-in threat protection tool. The figure represents an increase from 1.6 billion malicious apps from outside of the official Android storefront that were blocked in 2018 and 2017 each.

Thanks to a new policy introduced in 2018, the Android marketplace also recorded a 98% decrease in apps accessing users’ SMS and call log data last year. The remaining 2% applied to apps that require access to these data in order to perform their core functions. (In some cases, the new policy affected legitimate services from using SMS permissions for security, privacy and safety reasons.)

The tech giant also ramped up its protection against malicious apps, praising its collaboration with partners in the Android App Alliance, of which ESET is an inaugural member. Enhanced vetting mechanisms helped Play Protect stop over 790,000 policy-violating apps from being published to Google Play. The store's threat protection service now scans over 100 billion apps every day, which is double the number it scanned in 2018.

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Other improvements include a new policy aimed at protecting children and families, which led to the removal or updates of tens of thousands of apps last year. The policy introduced new requirements concerning the disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and the suitability of content and ads for children.

Having said all that, Google stressed that there’s more work to be done and reiterated its commitment to enhancing users’ privacy and security.

All things considered; you can always take several easy steps that will go a long way towards beefing up your protection. These include being cautious about the apps you install, especially – but not only – from outside the Play Store, paying attention to the permissions that the apps request, and having a reputable mobile security solution installed on your device.