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How to check your Android phone for malicious apps

Google Play Protect is built into Android and is already hard at work.

A recently discovered WhatsApp flaw made it possible for hackers to remotely install spyware on an iOS or Android device, without the phone's user even knowing. WhatsApp has already patched the flaw, both on its server and through an update for the app. If you haven't updated the WhatsApp app right now, do that immediately.

The flaw and subsequent fix serve as an important reminder to double check that your device is free of any malicious apps.

Google Play Protect scans up to 50 billion apps every day in an attempt to identify and remove any bad apps. When Google first launched Play Protect, the service only scanned apps installed from the Play store. Now, it scans every app installed on your device, regardless of source. It's a good idea to make sure Google Play Protect is enabled, learn how to scan on demand and double-check app updates before they are installed.

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View recent scan details

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The Play Protect settings page will let you scan on demand, displays the time of the last scan, and the apps that were scanned. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To view your Android device's last scan status and make sure Play Protect is enabled go to Settings > Security. The first option should be Google Play Protect; tap it. You'll find a list of recently scanned apps, any harmful apps found, and the option to scan your device on demand.

Play Protect should be enabled by default on your Android device, but it's a good idea to visit the above settings page and double check.

Verify an app is safe

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Play Protect provides reassurance that an app is safe as you download it. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

During the installation of an app from the Play store, you'll find the Play Protect badge underneath the progress bar, reassuring you the app has been "Verified by Play Protect" and is safe to install at the time of install. 

Before you update your apps

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Google Play Protect shows if there are any problems at the top of the Updates tab in the Play Store.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

After an app is scanned and approved for the Play store, that doesn't mean a bad actor won't slip something nefarious into a future app update. Thankfully, Google will show you at the top of the Updates section in the Play store whether or not pending updates are safe to download.