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Android "now as secure as iOS" claims Google chief

(Image credit: Image Credit: Alok Sharma / Pexels)

Eliminating malicious apps and keeping its mobile OS protected against a myriad of growing threats has been a challenging task for Google's Android team over the past year. 

The company has released its Android security report for 2017 (opens in new tab) to shed further light on the improvements its made to the platform to protect over two billion Android devices last year. 

In May, Google announced Google Play Protect (opens in new tab) to bring its suite of Android security services to the forefront of users' devices.  By utilising machine learning alongside a variety of different tactics, the service helped shield users from Potentially Harmful Apps (opens in new tab) (PHAs) by automatically reviewing more than 50 billion apps everyday. 

Play Protect also scans user devices once a day to check for PHAs and this feature helped remove almost 39m PHAs last year.  In October, Google even enabled offline scanning in Play Protect which was able to prevent an additional 10m PHA installs.

The Android team also worked to improve the security update process to ensure that the version of Android running on user devices is both up-to-date and secure.  Last year, 30 per cent more devices received security patches than in 2016 and no critical security vulnerabilities that affected Android were disclosed without an update or mitigation available forusers. 

New security features were also added to Android Oreo (opens in new tab) which made it safer to download apps, dropped insecure network protocols and provided more control over identifiers.  The overlay API was also updated to prevent apps from blocking the entire screen to prevent users from dismissing them which is a common tactic employed by ransomware. 

Google has done a great deal to increase its bug bounty programs and $1.28m was paid out to researchers that participated in the Android Security Rewards program.  The company also introduced the Google Play Security Rewards program (opens in new tab) with a bonus bounty to developers that discovered and disclosed certain critical vulnerabilities found in apps on the Google Play Store. 

Android has made great strides in further securing its platform without having to forego its more open nature when compared to Apple's iOS. 

Image Credit:  Alok Sharma / Pexels

After getting his start at ITProPortal and then working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches to how to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.