Can Android automatically download and install apps?
Most smartphone users will assume they have complete control over which apps are downloaded to their phones. Understandably, most smartphone users will also assume that app developers will not force a download on to their phone without their consent.
Unfortunately, these assumptions have not always been the case.
Automatic app downloads
Some US Android users reportedly found that Google had force installed, without the user’s permission, the MassNotify app on to their smartphones.
The MassNotify app was developed by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health as the state’s official COVID-19 automated contact tracing notification system. Designed for voluntary use, the app was to help track and trace potential COVID-19 contacts.
Although there is nothing to say the installs were activated, it still highlights a potential security and privacy issue if third-party developers are able to force a download on an unsuspecting user.
When confronted about the downloads by Bleeping Computers, the company responded by simply confirming text placed on Play Store “We have been working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to allow users to activate the Exposure Notifications System directly from their Android phone settings. This functionality is built into the device settings and is automatically distributed by the Google Play Store, so users don't have to download a separate app,”
The question could be asked, if first this track and trace app, then what?
Would it be possible for government agencies to simply force people to have apps that monitor a range of behaviours such as movements, purchasing habits or even methods of communications?
Although it is unlikely, the potential is clearly there. It is also worth noting that this type of behaviour does nothing to support trust between individuals and the government agencies involved.
How to secure your apps
The Blackphone PRIVY will provide the protection you need from unwanted downloads that do not have your consent. The Blackphone PRIVY is not automatically assigned to any app store, therefore there is no way for a third-party developer to exploit the connection. You simply can’t add apps to the PRIVY.
If you don’t own a PRIVY we always recommended reviewing your smartphone to make sure that everything you want is there and everything you don’t want or need is removed.
To find out more about how the Blackphone PRIVY can help you secure your sensitive business information and your personal data, please give our team a call.