Android has been known to be the mobile malware industry's operating system of choice. Now Google has published a report claiming infection rates on Android devices are much lower than you might expect.
While the overwhelming majority of mobile malware is written for Google-powered gadgets, the report claims that in 2014 less than one per cent of a billion Android devices in use had a malware infection, and that that figure dropped to 0.15 per cent if people only used apps from Google's Play Store.
"We want to ensure that Android is a safe place, and this report has helped us take a look at how we did in the past year, and what we can still improve on," said Adrian Ludwig, lead engineer for Android Security.
"In 2015, we have already announced that we are are being even more proactive in reviewing applications for all types of policy violations within Google Play. Outside of Google Play, we have also increased our efforts to enhance protections for specific higher-risk devices and regions."
Overall, malware infections dropped by more than 50 per cent, comparing 2014 to the year before, Google said in its report [PDF]. Part of this came down to improved adoption of more advanced versions of Android that have better security built in, but there have also been improvements in how Google checks apps for malware.
At the start of the year, Russian users of unofficial software stores were the most vulnerable Android users. But there has been rise in infections among Chinese users, with up to four per cent of their handsets and fondleslabs home to malware by the end of 2014.
The report also notes that much of the malware in circulation is pretty basic stuff, but that is changing. Google detected a big increase towards the later part of the year in ransomware, which encrypts a handset's files until a payment is made.
On the OS side, in the last year the Android team has released 79 security patches, but none of them have been rated as critical. The firm pushed out 30 fixes ranked as high severity, 41 rated moderate and eight low-level patches. More than 25,000 applications in the Play Store were updated after Google warned the authors of security vulnerabilities.
Clearly Android security is getting better, and the OS is much safer than it was five years ago. But that's not going to stop Apple – which is extremely strict on apps submitted to its iOS app store – beating Google over the head with the issue for some time to come. ®
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