SINGAPORE: Google announced that it is piloting new ways to protect Android users from financial fraud, including introducing enhanced fraud protection with Google Play Protect in Singapore as part of its partnership with the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA).

“During the upcoming pilot, when a user in Singapore attempts to install an application from an Internet-sideloading source and any of these four permissions are declared, Play Protect will automatically block the installation with an explanation to the user,” wrote Eugene Liderman, the Director of Mobile Security Strategy, on Google’s Security.

Noting that there have been over US$1 trillion (S$1.34 trillion) in losses due to financial fraud scams across all mobile platforms carried out by cybercriminals, 78 per cent of mobile users surveyed experienced at least one scam in the last year, according to the 2023 Global State of Scams Report by the Global Anti-Scam Alliance.

Screengrab/ Google Security Blog

Among the individuals surveyed, 45 per cent indicated they’ve been experiencing increased scams over the past 12 months.

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Most scams were carried out when scam links were sent through messaging apps endeavouring to get victims to install malicious apps, while would-be victims often get an accompanying phone call supposedly from a valid entity.

“Scammers frequently employ social engineering tactics to deceive mobile users. Using urgent pretences that often involve a risk to a user’s finances or an opportunity for quick wealth, cybercriminals convince users to disable security safeguards and ignore proactive warnings for potential malware, scams, and phishing,” Mr Liderman explained.

“We’ve seen a large percentage of users ignore, or are tricked into dismissing, these proactive Android platform warnings and proceed with installing malicious apps. This can lead to users ultimately disclosing their security codes, passwords, financial information and/or transferring funds unknowingly to a fraudster,” he added.

Mr Liderman announced that enhanced fraud protection with Google Play Protect will be launched in Singapore in the coming weeks to help keep Android users safe from mobile financial fraud.

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Screengrab/Google Security Blog

Apps that may use sensitive runtime permissions frequently abused for financial fraud will be analyzed and automatically blocked from installation when the user tries to install them from an Internet-sideloading source, such as web browsers, messaging apps, or file managers.

The government of Singapore has tested Google’s enhanced fraud protection.

Mr Chua Kuan Seah, Deputy Chief Executive of CSA, said:

“The fight against online scams is a dynamic one. As cybercriminals refine their methods, we must collaborate and innovate to stay ahead.

Through such partnerships with technology players like Google, we are constantly improving our anti-scam defenses to protect Singaporeans online and safeguard their digital assets.” /TISG

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