Home Vogue Android 15: Making Phone Thieves and Scammers Cry!

Android 15: Making Phone Thieves and Scammers Cry!

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At the I/O 2024 developer conference in California, Google unveiled the second beta version of its Android 15 operating system, codenamed Vanilla Ice Cream. The company also showcased this update’s new security and privacy features. Although the final release of Android 15 is still a few months away, expected in the third quarter of 2024, we can already explore its significant enhancements to Android users.

One of the most notable security upgrades in Android 15 is aimed at preventing smartphone theft and protecting user data. Google plans to roll out these features not only for Android 15 but also for older versions of the operating system, starting with Android 10, through service updates.

First, Android 15 will include factory reset protection, making it harder for thieves to wipe and resell stolen phones. This feature will require the owner’s password to reset the device. Additionally, Android 15 will introduce a “private space” for certain apps, such as banking apps and instant messengers, which can be hidden and secured with an additional PIN code to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Furthermore, Google is enhancing protection for critical settings. If a thief manages to get hold of an unlocked smartphone, they will need to authenticate using a PIN, password, or biometrics to disable Find My Device or change the screen lock timeout. Android 15 will require biometric authentication for accessing critical settings like changing the PIN, disabling anti-theft features, or using passkeys to counteract thieves who might observe or steal the user’s PIN code. This settings protection will be available on select devices later this year.

Android 15 will also bring several anti-theft features to versions 10 and above. One such feature is AI-powered, accelerometer-based automatic screen locking, which will lock the screen if the system detects movement patterns indicative of someone snatching the phone and running or driving away. Additionally, the phone will lock automatically if a thief attempts to keep it disconnected from the internet for an extended period. Automatic locking can also be triggered by other scenarios, such as multiple unsuccessful authentication attempts. Android will also offer remote locking, allowing users to lock their phone’s screen from another device.

In terms of protecting personal data during screen sharing and recording, Android 15 introduces several measures to prevent scams and unauthorized access. By default, screen sharing will only show the specific app the user is interacting with, not the system interface, which could contain personal information. However, full-screen sharing will still be possible if needed. Notifications will be hidden during screen sharing unless the app developer provides a “public version” of the notification content. Android 15 will also detect and hide windows containing one-time passwords, login credentials, and card information during screen sharing.

The Enhanced Restricted Settings feature in Android 15 aims to prevent misuse of dangerous permissions, such as access to notifications and Accessibility services, by apps not downloaded from trusted sources. This protection was easy to bypass in previous versions because the system determined the app’s origin based on the installation method. Android 15 will instead use a built-in XML file containing a list of trusted installers, blocking apps downloaded from other sources from accessing these sensitive permissions.

Android 15 will also introduce additional protection for one-time passwords (OTPs) in notifications. When an app requests access to a notification, the operating system will analyze the notification and remove any OTPs before passing it to the app. However, certain apps, such as those connected through the Companion Device Manager, will still have access to the full content of notifications, which could be exploited by malware.

To protect against malicious cellular networks, Android 15 will warn users if their cellular connection is unencrypted, making calls and texts vulnerable to interception. It will also notify users if a malicious base station or tracking device is recording their location using their device ID (IMSI or IMEI). These features require hardware support and may not be available on all devices upgraded to Android 15.

Google is also enhancing the Play Integrity API, allowing developers to detect fraudulent activities and threats within their apps. Developers can check if another app is recording the screen, displaying windows over their app, or controlling the device. If such threats are detected, developers can hide sensitive information or alert users. They can also verify if Google Play Protect is running on the device and if any known malware is present, enabling them to restrict certain actions or request additional user confirmation.

Google Play Protect will now operate directly on user devices for live threat detection. The system will analyze app behavior, focusing on the use of dangerous permissions and interactions with other apps and services. If potentially harmful behavior is detected, the app will be sent to Google Cloud for further review. While these improvements enhance security, using a comprehensive security solution remains advisable to complement Android 15’s features, providing thorough protection against malware and other threats.

Overall, Android 15 brings a range of new security and privacy features designed to protect users from theft, scams, and malicious activities. With AI-powered theft detection, enhanced settings protection, improved screen sharing security, and robust app permission controls, Android 15 aims to provide a safer and more secure user experience.

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