The big secret behind Google Play Protect on Android

There's one detail rarely mentioned about Google's splashy new Android security effort—and it's a critical point for everyone to understand.

Have you heard the news? Your Android device is in the midst of being updated to include Google's comprehensive new security suite, Google Play Protect.

Play Protect, as you may recall, was one of the biggest bullet points to come out of this year's Google I/O keynote address. It's a "doubled-down" effort around Android security, as Google explains it, and it's designed to ensure every Android device is always protected from any form of harm.

(Well, except for the kind of harm you yourself inflict when you drop your own phone in the commode. Seriously, how do you keep doing that?!)

Make no mistake about it: This is a good thing. Security on Android has been an area of perpetual concern for many people, and all it takes is a skimming of the latest Big, Bad Virus™ scare campaign to see why. (Surely you're familiar with the Android malware monster by now, right?)

But in all the discussion of Google Play Protect and all the coverage of every Big, Bad Virus™ that comes along, there's one significant detail that almost always gets omitted. Ready? Brace yourself:

Pretty much everything Play Protect accomplishes has been a part of Android for ages.

It's true: All those impressive-sounding security measures aren't actually new; they're just rebranded to be more memorable and repositioned to be more visible.

Not convinced? Let's break down Play Protect's primary features:

1. It scans Play Store apps for any signs of malware.

An essential measure, to be sure—and one Google's been doing in this same basic manner since 2012.

2. It monitors apps on your device for any signs of shady behavior.

Google also introduced this in 2012 (and then launched it more broadly in 2013) with the initial goal of addressing apps installed from unofficial, non-Play Store sources. It expanded the system in 2014 to include continuous monitoring of all apps on all devices.

3. It allows you to remotely locate, lock and optionally wipe your device.

A handy and highly useful function that—yup, you guessed it—has been natively available in Android since 2013.

4. It warns you about websites that might serve up malware or try to trick you into providing personal information.