In the last three months, the world has witnessed a series of deadly ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Petya aka ExPetr on computers of big corporate and government agencies and in anticipation of similar threats to mobile phones, Google is silently testing an SOS system on its Android mobile platform.
Many users don't know that their latest flagship Android phones have this hidden 'Panic Detection' mode. However, they can't use it as the code to execute the function is disabled for now. The search engine giant is still experimenting with Android 7.1 and latest mobile softwares.
What Android 'Panic Mode' does and how it works?
'Panic Mode' was first discovered by industrious XDA Developer Forum members, who also happen to be Android code testers. During one of their routine tests, they chanced upon the code –"config_backPanicBehavior". This feature helps users to kill any app instantly if they find them to be malicious.
This has been done to help the users to stop malware from encrypting sensitive data and lock the phone.
As of now, the code behaviour is set to 0 (zero). Once the code is assigned to the value: 1 (One), the Panic mode will get activated, which we believe will happen really soon.
Upon closer inspection of the code, we can see how the panic button works. Google has set 'back' button of the phone as the trigger for panic mode. But, it will only get activated, if the user presses it four consecutive times.
// Number of presses needed before we induce panic press behavior on the back button
static final int PANIC_PRESS_BACK_COUNT = 4;
static final int PANIC_PRESS_BACK_NOTHING = 0;
static final int PANIC_PRESS_BACK_HOME = 1;
Google is trying to bring the malware-kill feature to Android phones, considering the fact that it is the world's most used mobile OS platform. It has a user-base of over one billion, which amounts to around 85 percent of global smartphone users.
With so much Android users in the world, Google's mobile platform is an easy target for hackers. We have already witnessed malware-ridden apps bypassing stringent security measures and entering Google Play app stores.
Last year, over 14 million Android device owners fell prey to CopyCat malware.
We will be tracking the progress of Google's novel initiative. Keep an eye on this space for the latest update on Android's panic mode feature.