Android Q: New Security Features Unveiled…

Has the time for another major Android refresh come around already?

Well, not quite. Android Q isn’t scheduled for general consumer release until early Autumn. But last month, Google launched its developer-focused preview version (Android Q Beta), which was followed at the start of April by Android Q Beta 2.

So far, headline changes in the revamped OS include Bubbles – an app notification feature that promises to make multitasking easier, native screen recording, a new sharing shortcut function, along with support for folding phones.

Beyond the usual incremental interface tweaks, Android Q also promises some useful security and privacy enhancements. Here’s a closer look at what we can expect – and at what’s behind the changes…

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The Background: Android Q and Google’s New Approach to Security…

Ever opened an app and wondered why you’re being asked to give access to so much info? You’re not alone…

Last year, Google announced Project Strobe, a root and branch review of third-party developer access to account and device data, with a firm focus on maintaining user confidence.

As part of this project, the consumer version of Google+ was culled (it had next to no users – and maintaining it securely was simply not deemed ‘worth it’).

Beyond this, with many consumers becoming much more privacy-savvy, Google realised that if developers are still requesting blanket permissions given out of context and with no real explanation, this could easily erode confidence in the whole Google ecosystem. People want more fine-grained control over the data they share – especially when it comes to Android apps.

Many of the security and privacy enhancements ushered in under Android Q can be seen as part of this drive for greater transparency on the part of app developers and greater control for users.

Location Access

Let’s face it, with a few exceptions, there’s seldom a good reason why an app needs to know your location all of the time.

And yet, up until now, location permission on Android was an all or nothing matter: you either gave blanket permission for that app to access your location (even if you were not actually using the app) – or you denied location access in all circumstances.

Q lets you get more granular. With it, you can choose to grant access all of the time, when the app is in use – or never.

Media and other files

It’s easy to see why a chat app would need access to your contacts – or why a productivity tool would need to see your calendar. On the other hand, it’s often a lot harder to see the rationale behind a wholesale request to access your photos and videos in their entirety!

Android Q makes it easier for users to control access to shared files in their Photos, Videos and Audio folders through a new series of type-specific and app-specific permissions.

To access your downloads, apps will also now have to use the system file picker, which also gives you greater control over which files the app is able to access.

Q also changes how apps may access the files stored externally (on an SD card, for instance). Under the new process, apps will be able to access their own files that are stored externally via their own isolated storage sandbox – but will require a new series of permissions to access other types of files. This prevents some known attacks.

Fewer screen takeovers

Q looks set to stop background apps from launching full scale foreground activities. In practice, it should prevent the annoying situation where an app running in background suddenly takes over your screen, demanding your attention, based on what can often be the flimsiest of pretexts.

Under Q’s default requirements, if a background app demands your attention, it must seek it via a notification message – not a fullscreen pop-up.

Where can I access Android Q right now?

The latest Q beta update is currently available for its homegrown Pixel devices (including the Pixel 2, Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL models) – and you can access it here. As with Android Pie, it’s expected that other manufacturers (e.g. Sony, OnePlus – and possibly Samsung) will be able to access the beta phase in due course.

P.S. Just be aware that this early stage beta rollout is designed to give developers an early heads-up on upcoming changes. It’s not meant for casual users – and almost certainly isn’t yet stable enough for day-to-day use!

  • Nathan House

    Nathan House is the founder and CEO of StationX. He has over 25 years of experience in cyber security, where he has advised some of the largest companies in the world. Nathan is the author of the popular "The Complete Cyber Security Course", which has been taken by over half a million students in 195 countries. He is the winner of the AI "Cyber Security Educator of the Year 2020" award and finalist for Influencer of the year 2022.

  • Harry says:

    Great article and thanks for sharing

  • Riyaz says:

    Amazing. Good to know that people are actually getting privacy-centric and not just randomly installing applications which ask for the weirdest things like ” access to all data “.

  • Chaz Uriel Bey says:

    I am new to this and this is my hobby right now. I have already caught a hacker in my system. And I am not turning my computer back on. I hook up a wireless speaker to hardline after putting the laptop in airplane mode I turned on the speaker and unplugged it and it was playing wireless with laptop in airplane mode. So I got a hacker in my system. I am really new to this so I can not continue learning until I take laptop to bestbuy this happened after trying to install internet security and it failed. One day I will be able to put my cyber foot in someone ass.

    Thank you for your time…

  • Nancy J Bornsheuer says:

    I had my kids father use a parent app as a tool to destroy my life to the point where I became homeless. Maybe a more light way of verification of the parent and the intended child it is to oversee actions of! in the wrong hands it becomes a weapon.

  • elias says:

    i have a lot of them apts on my phone that want access to location I have no problem with it i just disable the gps they use to locate it. works for me . They really want to locate it they can other ways triangulate off towers and like that but thats a little extreme for some of the apps requesting location. Cell phones have come a long ways from the start where you couldn’t get any signel nobody could understand you, they weighted 4 lbs and the battery was good for about a half hour. There was the other kind that came in a case and hooked up to a car battery they were a little better, until you got the bill at the end of the month if you went anywhere you had roaming charges, they would charge up 5.00$ for the first time you used a tower. you could easily have a 1800.00$ cell phone bill at the end of the month. At that time you had to sigh a 1 year contract just to get one. so you were stuck with it, at 35.00 a month if it sat in your closet or trunk of you car.
    That wasn’t all that many years ago really well maybe it was now that I think about it 30 years is a while.

  • Alishia says:

    Hello Nathan, thanks for sharing such an important update with us. It is good to know that users will now have more control over app access to location info, shared files, and repositories like Photos and Videos. Google is supporting bubble UI and it will be called a new way to multitask.

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