Android Security Beefed Up in 2017, Now Touted to Be as Safe as iOS

With a significant drop in the instances of vulnerabilities spotted on Android, Google has now claimed that its mobile operating system is as secure as the competition, mainly Apple’s iOS. The search giant has also separately published its fourth annual year in review to highlight various advancements in Android security. The 56-page report has a significant focus on Google Play Protect that was released at the I/O developer conference last year.

The prime aim of machine learning-backed Play Protect is to protect users from suspicious apps that Google calls Potentially Harmful Apps. As per the latest year in review, machine learning found to have detected 60.3 percent of all Potentially Harmful Apps within Google Play. Play Protect particularly scans more than 50 billion apps on a daily basis. This already helped to remove nearly 39 million vulnerable apps last year. Further, Google updates Play Protect to respond to trends that have been detected across the ecosystem. In October last year, Play Protect received an offline scanning feature that helped to recognise nearly 35 percent of new PHA installations on devices that were offline or had lost network connectivity.

Compared to 2016, Play Protect reviewed 65 percent more apps on the Google Play store last year. It also works outside Google Play and contributed last year in reducing the installation of Potentially Harmful Apps from third-party sources by more than 60 percent.

Apart from the major participation of Play Protect in securing Android last year, Google utilised its partnership with device manufacturers to reduce vulnerability count. The company claims that over 2016, 30 percent more devices received Android security patches last year. “Furthermore, no critical security vulnerabilities affecting the Android platform were publicly disclosed without an update or mitigation available for Android devices. This was possible due to the Android Security Rewards Program, enhanced collaboration with the security researcher community, coordination with industry partners, and built-in security features of the Android platform,” the company said in a blog post.

Google paid as much as $1.28 million (approximately Rs. 8.3 crores) to researchers under its Android Security Rewards programme. The Android maker also reiterates its success that it received at the 2017 Mobile Pwn2Own hacking contest where no exploits were able to compromise Google Pixel phones and none of the exploits demonstrated for Android were able to hit the pure Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

In an interview with CNET, David Kleidermacher, Google’s head of security for Android, Google Play, and Chrome OS, said that Android is now as safe as the competition. Though the executive didn’t specify iOS, it is quite certain the company is referring to it since Apple’s platform is the next dominating mobile platform after Android, as per all the leading market reports.

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