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Google’s Android, now 10 years old, has not been a stranger to security issues over the years. But with the mobile operating system now installed on over 2 billion devices globally, Google has been taking an increasingly firmer grip on trying to bring the problem under control. Now, the company has published its lengthy annual update to take stock on just how well that is going.
It’s a slippery slope to be sure, with the number of apps and the enterprising attempts to maliciously exploit them both growing. To wit, 0.04 percent of all downloads from Google Play were classified as potentially harmful applications (PHAs) by Google, versus 0.02 percent in 2017 — an increase in part because Google is growing the categories it’s identified and is tracking.
Google - Policies - APIs - Implementation - Google
But Google said that new policies, such as more privacy-hardened APIs, along a wider implementation of Google Play Protect — its built-in malware scanner that comes with unforked versions of Android — have contributed to the company overall making a dent in the problem.
One area that Google singled out in the report this year was the impact that it’s having on protecting devices and users when they download and use apps from outside the Google Play store.
Area - Focus - Wins - Figure - PHAs
As this is a newer area that it’s tackling with more focus, there are more quantifiable wins to be had, and broadcasted. It didn’t provide a specific figure for how many PHAs it blocked from the Google Play store in 2018 (note that in 2017 it did disclose this: it was 700,000). But in 2018 it noted that “Google Play Protect prevented 1.6 billion PHA installation attempts from outside of Google Play.”
Notably, when it comes to apps on the Google Play store, on devices running unforked versions of Android, the dent seems to be mostly keeping the problem...
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