Last Wednesday Google confirmed the release of the latest iteration of Android – version 4.3. Whilst that news is of universal appeal to the millions of gadget lovers out there it is also of interest to those who consider the aspects of privacy and security.
The Android platform has long been associated with malware. Its popularity, combined with third party app stores, has made it a juicy target for hackers and the potential threats are reportedly growing at quite some rate. Now, however, Android users can make their devices more secure via a hidden feature in Jelly Bean 4.3.
This latest version of Android gives users far more control over the permissions that their installed apps possess. The feature that allows for this – App Ops – is currently hidden but can easily be found and utilised via a free app (Permission Manager) that has already appeared on Google Play.
App Opps allows users to toggle the permissions that other apps possess on an individual basis. This means that users can go through all the apps that they have installed and see, firstly, what permissions they have. Secondly, they can then switch off location reporting, notifications and other permissions they don’t like the look of on a case by case basis.
App Opps could also prove to be useful in identifying potentially rogue apps that may otherwise attempt to make premium rate calls or send expensive SMS messages without the owner’s knowledge. Likewise, the app could be used after the event to find the source of any unexpected surprises on a user’s bill.
It looks like App Opps could still be in the testing phase right now which would explain why it is not a forward facing feature of Android 4.3 right now. At this time, if a user disables permissions and then tries to use an app that they have blocked, then the message they will receive is hardly useful (see video above where it talks about using the camera via the gallery).
That said, it looks like Google is looking to place more emphasis on security and privacy in the future though and that can only be a good thing.
Also of note with Android 4.3 is the addition of custom restrictions on user profiles. After adding multi-user accounts in version 4.2 of the operating system Google have now added additional functionality that will allow for parental controls.
Children using an account that has been correctly configured will have their ability to install apps limited or restricted. Parents can also configure accounts to block in-app purchases which will be a relied to any that have seen the recent hi-profile cases where kids have run up huge bills buying virtual goodies.