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Android Security Year in Review: Google says Android is as secure as iOS

Google says 60.3 percent of Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) were detected via machine learning in 2017

  • Published: March 16, 2018 1:51 PM IST
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Google has released its Android Security 2017 Year in Review report, further highlighting how it is closing gap to Apple’s iOS in security aspect of the mobile operating system. This is the fourth annual report on Android security and it details various improvements to Google’s security offerings for the mobile operating system.

One of the major learnings from the report is that 60.3 percent of Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) were detected via machine learning. The detection is done via Google Play Protect, a service that was recently enabled on over 2 billion active devices running Android 4.3 or higher. The service constantly scans for potential threats including malicious background activity. Google says that Play Protect leverages technical talent of security experts and advanced machine learning algorithms to detect PHAs in real-time and on-device.

The security review report comes on the heels of an announcement were Google revealed that it removed more than 7,00,000 apps from Play Store in 2017 for violation of its policies. Google says it expects this number to increase in the future. The report notes that Play Protect automatically reviews more than 50 billion apps and it led to removal of 39 million PHAs last year. After learning that nearly 35 percent of new PHA installations occurred while the device was offline, Google has now added offline protection to Play Protect.

Google says Android devices that only downloaded apps from Google Play are 9 times less likely to get a PHA compared to those downloading apps from third-party app store. It also increased the number of Android devices that received security patches by more than 30 percent last year. Google says it reviews all apps before publishing them in Google Play as an additional layer of protection.

Google is particularly highlighting the work gone behind limiting the distribution of PHAs on the platform. It says the annual probability of a user downloading a PHA from Google Play was down from 0.04 percent in 2016 to 0.02 percent last year. In 2017, 0.56 percent of all Android devices scanned by Play Protect has a PHA installed compared to 0.77 percent in 2016.

Google is also offering higher rewards as part of Android bug bounty program. The report shows the strides in security that Google has taken in the past year. Google has already streamlined Android to make it visually appealing and robust and it is now improving security, which remains fundamental strength of iOS.

  • Published Date: March 16, 2018 1:51 PM IST