Android’s security credentials could take a huge leap forward this year, if an early developer preview is anything to go by.
Though it may be the most popular operating system currently in use, Android has long been dogged by accusations of being less secure than its rivals – most notably Apple’s iOS. This is often given as the main driver for anyone making the switch from Android to Apple.
In a bid to stem this flow, Google looks to have put security front and centre for its next OS iteration – tentatively called Android P.
Though there’s still much time between now and its full release (and much that can still change), Android P has now reached developer preview stage, meaning its key features are beginning to coalesce. Among these features is a block on cleartext, standardised fingerprint recognition dialog and a restriction on apps working in the background – all of which suggest a much greater importance on user security.
Cleartext is the traffic sent unencrypted by apps – that is, across HTTP and not HTTPS. Android P blocks the ability for third party apps to send cleartext by default, so if a user wants to override this they have to do it manually (and do so for specific, individual domains).
For fingerprint authentication, Android P has created a more standardised look, feel and placement. The hope is that users would become accustomed to this new dialog and would therefore be able to identify fraudulent fingerprint scanning software at a glance.
Finally, Android P has significantly limited the capabilities of apps running in the background. Whilst third party apps will still be able to run when not in use, they’ll no longer have access to hardware such as the microphone and speaker – making it a less attractive prospect for cyber criminals.
Although there’s still a long way to go before Android P is rolled out globally (meaning any or all of these could still end up on the digital scrapheap) it’s the best indication yet of the direction Google is looking to head with its next Android iteration. As tech blogger Graham Cluley told tripwire.com: “Maybe, just maybe, the ‘P’ in Android P stands for Privacy.”