Today, Google published its annual Android Security Year in Review report, detailing the company’s efforts to maintain 1.4 billion Android users and their data secured throughout 2016. This is the third such report since Google began launching monthly Android security updates in collaboration with smartphone manufacturers back in 2015, and the good news is that the Android platform seems to become increasingly more secure, at least according to the latest data.
For the past couple of years, Google has been working diligently to improve the security of Android OS. In 2016 the company improved its ability to stop dangerous applications from reaching the ecosystem, and Android 7.0 Nougat brought along new security features as well. One of Google’s main goals is to keep Android users safe from PHAs (Potentially Harmful Applications), and several systems have been put into place over the years to ensure this. This includes app analyzers designed to constantly review apps for unsafe behavior, as well as ‘Verify Apps’ designed to check a user’s Android smartphone regularly for PHAs. According to Google, Verify Apps performed 750 million daily checks throughout 2016, up from 450 million checks in 2015. This contributed to a considerably lower installation rate of PHAs in the top 50 countries where Android OS is present, with only 0.05% of devices that downloaded applications exclusively from the Play Store containing PHAs, down from 0.15% in 2015. Furthermore, in 2016 compared to 2015, trojans dropped by 51.5% to 0.016%; hostile downloaders dropped by 54.6% down to 0.003%; backdoors dropped by 30.5% to 0.003%; and phishing apps dropped by 73.4% to 0.0018%. Google also specifies that although only 0.71% of all Android devices had PSAs installed by the end of 2016, this figure has slightly increased from 0.5% at the beginning of 2015.
Android Security updates also play a big role in keeping malicious software at bay, and Google shared how the program expanded throughout 2016 to include security patches for more than 735 million Android devices from over 200 manufacturers. Android security updates have covered devices running Android 4.4.4 and up, accounting for 86.3% of the active Android ecosystem worldwide. However, Google also claims that there is still room for improvement, as roughly 50% of all Android devices in use before the end of 2016 have yet to receive a security update throughout the year. The company aims to streamline its security update program, allowing device manufacturers to deploy A/B system updates and new security patches with more ease.