Android safe browsing API, protect android apps, malwares

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Google Safe Browsing has finally arrived the Android platform. If this doesn’t look like a big deal to you, that could be because you’ve never being faced with the issue of clicking on some links only to discover they were just masking malicious files or bugs.

Android safe browsing API, protect android apps, malwares
Google Safe Browsing

And if that is the case, it is safe to say you don’t surf the net using your Android smartphone.

For those who use smartphone browsers, like Chrome, Firefox and apps a lot, this is the sort of news that should see you raising your eyes to the stars and thanking whoever decided it was high time Google Safe Browsing came to Android devices.

Google Safe Browsing was first announced at this year’s Google I/O conference. The feature had already been introduced to computers and laptops to protect people from malicious links and websites while using their computer browsers to surf the net.

Android safe browsing API, protect android apps, malwares
Safe Browsing on the web

And apparently, this feature is doing a lot to protect users while online. At least I know from personal experience that after Safe Browsing was introduced, I get warnings about the potential harm a particular website is capable of causing to my system if I click on their url.

For the Android version of Safe Browsing, Google called it ‘device-local safe browsing API.’ A Rather long name for something so unambiguous.

Device-local safe browsing API is mainly directed at developers though. That is, the developers who would design and built codes that would help Android users know if a link is malicious or not while browsing. And if the device has previously flagged the link as unsafe using the same codes in the device, it would show up in Google’s list of unsafe links and the user is warned.

Examples of the sort of sites Android Safe Browsing would target are the so-called phising sites: these sites are there to get your login information that could easily lead hackers to other important information. The second notable group of sites that Safe Browsing would target are sites that look authentic but are hosts to various malwares.

Android safe browsing API, protect android apps, malwares
Safe Browsing on Android phone

A typical example is when you wish to download something you consider important. And the only place to get it is from some third party sites because for one reason or the other, the file is not available on the official site. Searching for the file could lead you to a site and a link to download the file. This is how malwares can easily infect your phone because the download link is just a vehicle for introducing malware into your device.

The welcome news was announced in a rather brief blog post by Stephan Somogyi of the Safe Browsing Team and William Luh of Android security:

During Google I/O in June, we told everyone that we were going to make a device-local Safe Browsing API available to all Android developers later in the year. That time has come!

Starting with Google Play Services version 9.4, all Android developers can use our privacy-preserving, and highly network as well as power-efficient on-device Safe Browsing infrastructure to protect all of their apps’ users. Even better, the API is simple and straightforward to use.”

Android safe browsing API, protect android apps, malwares
Google Safe Browsing

From the blog post it is clear that the Safe Browsing protocol on Android devices has other benefits as well. These include

  1. the ability to cut down on power consumption so batteries can last longer
  2. data consumption is reduced
  3. apps with the API can specify which threats to be avoided

The API is been integrated in the latest version of Google Play services to make it easier for developers to use and extend to even very old versions of Android. We are talking as far back as Android 2.3, Gingerbread. You got to wonder if people still use that Android version though.


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