A change coming with Android 14 will impose restrictions on the apps that smartphone users can install on their devices, even if they’re sideloading software rather than installing it through the Play Store.
Google’s change should help stop the spread of malware that takes advantage of exploits found in older builds of its Android OS, though if you’re a frequent sideloader it may make it a little harder to use non-Play Store apps.
The yearly release of the latest Android version – or the latest iOS build from Apple, or Windows OS from Microsoft – doesn’t just bring new features for the best Android smartphones to take advantage of. They also include new hidden security tools that make it tough for hackers to break into your device. Eventually, hackers will find a way through the protections, but by that point, Google will have hopefully moved well beyond even Android 14 to a version of its OS that is still uncracked.
However, finding flaws in ancient Android OS builds isn’t useless. Hackers can create apps that specifically target these older versions of Google’s OS, and can then exploit its flaws to bypass some of the protections on your smartphone if you install it on your device.