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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 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 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 (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 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 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

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.