Understanding 'potential threat alerts' on the Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung is making it a little easier to see which apps can send text messages

Some Samsung Galaxy S5 owners may have noticed a new security warning popping up when installing certain apps. Entitled "potential threat alerts," the message tells you (in somewhat opaque terms) that the app has "authorization to access Messages," while offering up a link to further control this setting. The security option on some Galaxy S5 models, particularly those sold in Europe, and it's actually a lot simpler than it first seems.

So what's going on with this new feature, and do you have anything to worry about when an app triggers this warning? Let's take a closer look.

What the 'Potential threat alerts' message means

You'll see this message when an app requests access to the "receive text messages" permission. Per Jerry Hildenbrand's breakdown of various Android permissions, this permission is fairly self-explanatory:

Subscription SMS services are everywhere, so this is one to keep an eye on. SMS apps Handcent or Chomp will need this, that makes sense, but what about an app that allows you to edit or take a picture and send it to a friend? Yep, it's going to need to send MMS messages, too. Same with something like a Mr. T soundboard (I pity the fool!) that lets you send a sound byte. If an app is set up for you to share media, you might see this one listed as one of it's permissions. If it's not, think twice about installing it.

The reasons an app might need this permission aren't always obvious. Twitter, for instance, uses the "receive text messages" permission to let you sign in using your registered phone number. This involves having the app receive a text message from Twitter in order to see if you're using the phone number associated with your account.

Potential threats alert

How to disable the message, or view apps that can send text messages

If you touch "OK" at the "Potential threat alerts" you'll be taken to the management menu straight away. If you need to get back there, you'll need to dig around a little.

The menu lives within the stock "Messages" app, which you'll need to re-enable if you're using a different SMS app like Google Hangouts. Tap the overflow menu (three dots in the top right corner of the screen), then go to Settings > Safe mode > Potential threat alerts.

From here you can use the toggle at the top right to switch this feature off entirely. The list below will show you all the apps installed on your phone that can send and receive SMS and MMS messages. Tapping on an app will take you to its app info screen, from where you can uninstall it if necessary.

So now you know ...

Making it easy to see which apps can do potentially costly things like sending text messages is a good thing — though perhaps a better job could've been done communicating the details of this feature to users. If an app updates in the background with several others, for instance, you'll see the scary "potential threat alerts" dialog and potentially not know exactly what triggered it. Regardless, it's simple enough to understand once you know the basics.

For more help, tips and tricks, see our Galaxy S5 help page, and swing by our GS5 forums!

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.