Safe Browsing will come to the Android WebView by default in version 66
Malware and phishing attacks continue to be a threat to online security. We have seen various operating systems be affected by malware attacks, and Android is one of them. To overcome the issue, Google has consolidated its Android security features into Google Play Protect, which regularly scans users’ apps for malware. Web browsing is another area where users are vulnerable to these attacks, but Google’s Safe Browsing has been acclaimed for protecting users from such attacks since it was released in 2007.
According to Google, Safe Browsing protects over three billion devices from “an increasing number of threats,” which now also include unwanted software across desktop and mobile platforms. Now, the company has announced that Google Play Protect is bringing Safe Browsing to WebView by default, starting in April 2018 with the release of WebView version 66.
The WebView API is used by apps to show web content in Android. In 2013, Google replaced the old WebKit-powered WebView with a new Chromium-powered WebView in Android 4.4 KitKat. Since Android 5.0 Lollipop, WebView has been updated on the Google Play Store, and since Android 7.0 Nougat, it’s powered by the current version of Google Chrome Stable.
Google notes that Safe Browsing in WebView has been available since Android 8.0 Oreo (API level 26), and it uses the same underlying technology as Chrome for Android. Developers could choose to optionally implement it in their Android apps using WebView, but now, they will no longer have to make any changes to benefit from this protection. When Safe Browsing is triggered, the app will show a warning and receive a network error. Google adds that apps built for API level 27 and above can customize this behavior with new APIs for Safe Browsing.
Developers can test their application today using the Safe Browsing test URL (chrome://safe-browsing/match?type=malware) while using the current WebView beta. They can also learn more about customizing and controlling Safe Browsing in the Android API documentation.
Our view: The implications of this are that all apps that use WebView will now have Safe Browsing. This has a high potential to benefit users’ security, which is a good thing.