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My mom has an Android tablet and she doesn't even know what a site is, her e-mail, or even the password of her Facebook account. She's an average user. The internet is Facebook in her eyes. She has no need for apps or anything, it's just, only, precisely Facebook. All is Facebook.

How can I completely disable installing apps in Android so they can't be installed in any way or form, I mean, not by URL, not by clicking, not by the app store, not even by another program? Just disable the entire thing altogether.

Doesn't need to be safe, have locks, passwords, etc. I'm not trying to secure the device from intruders, attackers, or robbers, I'm trying to secure it from its very own user.

Please help. I just had to remove two anti-virus apps that were opening adware pages when she tried to open Facebook Lite, and that's obviously a no-go, apps which she "had not installed." Clearly, there's some voodoo going on here for them to just pop up, or maybe she just did it unknowingly, but none of that's relevant.

How can you just disable installs so this couldn't ever happen again?

4 Answers 4

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First, disable the primary source of installation. On most devices, it is the Google Play Store but your device might have been shipped with a non-Google market app as well. So go to Settings → Apps → (three-dots line → Show System) or (All Apps) → your market app → Disable.

Second, disable the Package Installer system app. This provides the GUI for sideloading. So if you disable it and attempt to install an APK (through a file manager, by drive-by download, or when pushed by a third-party app) you would definitely fail. At this point, it is irrelevant whether Unknown Sources is disabled or not, but you may keep the latter disabled from Settings → Security.

Third, an app can still be sideloaded through command-line, preferably through ADB. Keep Developer options disabled and hidden (default). This is untested but revoking executable permissions (requires root access) from pm binary for user 2000 or for every user might help. This however, may cause device instability so take backup from a custom recovery before you proceed with this step.

Your user would be fine with the first two steps. It's not like they would deliberately try to find a way to install an app if they are not tech-savvy already.


Alternatively, in your particular situation you can use an ad-blocker app. The best ones require root access though.

Or, why not use a kiosk-mode app? Limit your mother's activities to certain set of apps she should use. That's an another option on the table.

Choose wisely.

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She installed it, no app can install itself without user interaction.

However, the best would be to deactivate Google Play Services from settings or even install ROM without any Google app on it (if there is a custom ROM for your device).

And you should disable "apps from unknown sources" in settings under security.

If she still manages to install x app, then you should teach her not to click on something that says "install me" or any other ad on the internet.

Also, does she use the Facebook app to access Facebook or an internet browser? If she uses a browser, then install Samsung browser or Mozilla and enable ad blocking. If she uses the Facebook app, then you should use some Adblock app to block ads globally (I don't know if some work without root).

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I think two apps are responsible for installing apps: the Play Store and Package Installer.

Play Store can be disabled, but not the package installer. The latter is responsible for APK files and works when the unknown source is ticked. You can only freeze it with root privilege.

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  • 1
    May I kindly know what does your answer adds to which has already not been covered in my answer?
    – Firelord
    Sep 8, 2017 at 9:28
  • At least to point out quite frankly that package installer cannot be disabled without root though I am not very sure this is the situation with all Android versions Sep 8, 2017 at 9:32
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    You can uninstall package installer with adb.
    – Kovy Jacob
    Nov 27, 2022 at 17:53
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On Android 7.0 onwards i.e on Nougat and Oreo, apps can install themselves without the consent of the user. No remedies to date. They may be pushed to install from a native browser or any other app.

The rooting and uninstalling of the package installer and verified installation may prevent installation.


References:

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  • please note that automatic installation not requires package install or verified install , so no remedies.
    – indipop
    Dec 10, 2018 at 14:31

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