Android 13, new crackdown on sideloading in the name of safety


Android 13 could further complicate the lives of power users and modding enthusiasts in the name of security: Esper’s Mishaal Rahman found that Google intends to end the practice of “abusing” accessibility APIs and services for purposes that are not directly related to those implied in the name – that is, to provide apps and services that help people with various disabilities. to use smartphones and other Android devices.

Specifically: apps installed from sources outside the Play Store will not be allowed to use the accessibility services. Or rather, not automatically. The user will have to take a deliberately complicated path in the Settings to remove the block: from the app information page, reach the top right corner and activate the “Allow restricted settings” item, and at that point it will be possible to authorize the use of accessibility services.

By their very nature, accessibility services are extremely powerful, because they must be able to intervene on fundamental elements of the operating system. And it’s relatively easy for a fraudulent app to exploit them as an attack vector – dozens of examples have been documented over the years. It is understandable that Google tries to better protect such a crucial resource, but it is a shame that this happens at the expense of power users, even if it is a minority of people and an even rarer case to be encountered in that scene as well.

After all, also on the Play Store side Google has recently introduced very similar news. Apps can no longer use accessibility services by default unless they are created expressly for that purpose – and it’s Google itself that makes the final judgment. Developers can try to request an exception by documenting the reasons and reasons why accessibility services can make their app significantly better, but it’s a long and complex process, and the outcome is far from obvious.

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