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11 July 2017

Your next Android might come with a ‘panic button’ to exit shady apps

Get out! Fast!
Get out! Fast!

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

We’ve all done it — clicked on that shady link, downloaded that questionable app, or hit “submit” on some online form only to instantly realize we’ve fallen victim to some form of hack.

It turns out that Google might just have a solution for us. Well, a partial one, anyway. 

According to XDA-Developers and Bleeping Computer, Google has added a “panic button” feature to Android 7.1 that would allow smartphone users to quickly exit a misbehaving app upon the realization that something is amiss. So just as quickly as you yell out “oh shit,” you can shut down the offending party. 

Here’s how it would work: A person rapidly hits the back button four times, and Android exits out of all apps. Basically, if an app begins to take over your screen, you have a way out. 

Pretty cool, right?

Bugdroid to the rescue!

Bugdroid to the rescue!

This feature couldn’t come soon enough, as the fear of treacherous apps is not some fantasyland threat. It was just this past April that a group of researchers determined hundreds of apps in the Google Play store had a vulnerability that could leave phones open to hackers. And if the past is any indication, that won’t be the last time apps present a security threat.  

Every little tool in the battle to protect a smartphone helps, and the creation of the panic button is a particularly human response to a definitely human weakness. 

Importantly, the feature is currently disabled. What does that mean? Well, Google could be testing it out, or its engineers may be waiting to unveil it at some later date. We reached out to Google to figure out what its plans are, and will update if and when we hear back. 

Either way, users are going to have to wait for the quick-exit relief that the panic feature would offer — assuming Google decides to deploy it at all, that is. 

In the meantime, maybe we can all just stop clicking on shady links?

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