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Google hid a fail-safe in Android 7.1 that could protect you from malware

The security mode kicks in when you press the back button in quick succession.


Phillip Tracy


Posted on Jul 11, 2017   Updated on May 23, 2021, 12:15 am CDT

Google hid a clever feature in its latest Android 7.1 Nougat operating system that helps frantic users exit apps that may be trying to hijack their phone. First spotted by XDA Developers, “Panic Mode” sends a device back to its home screen if it detects the user tapping the back button repeatedly.

This is particularly useful if you’ve downloaded a rogue app that is attempting to take over your device by preventing you from exiting. Some malware apps can disable your buttons and prevent you from leaving their software. With Panic Mode, Android overrides those hacks and delivers its users back to the safety of the home screen, where they can presumably uninstall the malicious app.

Google did not advertise the feature, perhaps in fear that hackers will find a way around it, but we think it is important users know how it works. It’d be a shame if an Android owner accidentally allowed a malware attack to continue, not knowing they could have prevented the app’s takeover.

Panic Mode isn’t something you can actively enable or disable. It’s also difficult to test since most apps close when you press the back button from their main screen. Still, it’s nice to see Android include a fail-safe when things start looking hopeless.

Of course, the best defense against malware is to do your research before downloading an app and to always keep your phone’s software up to date.

H/T XDA Developers

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*First Published: Jul 11, 2017, 12:25 pm CDT