GOOGLE'S new initiative to reduce malware in the Android ecosystem has failed miserably at its first test.
The service was launched alongside Android 8.0 Oreo in response to concerns about the rise in Android malware, reflecting the popularity of the platform, but is mostly a visible manifestation of a system known internally as "Bouncer" (after the dog from Neighbours*) that was already in place in the background. It is available across all version of Android, not just Oreo.
However, in tests from German malware experts AV-Test, Google Play Protect detected just 65.8 percent of recent malware samples, rising to 79.2 percent of malware of around a month old.
This puts them last in their respective categories, with third-party solutions catching almost everything that was thrown at it. The top systems scored 13.0 points in testing (let's not get stuck in the methodology now) but Google Play Protect scored a measly 6.0 - the lowest score by some considerable margin.
Back when Oreo was announced, Google's VP of Engineering, Dave Burke raved about its machine learning elements which should theoretically give it the leading edge.
"Play Protect is built into every device with Google Play, is always updating, and automatically takes action to keep your data and device safe, so you don't have to lift a finger," he explained.
"Play Protect detects and removes apps that might be harmful. And with more than 50 billion apps scanned every day, our machine learning systems are always on the lookout for new risks."
This means, in theory, that the lousy early-doors performance will be superseded by better results as time goes on. But as Google's flagship security initiative, this is a major embarrassment.
Google has been fighting a running battle with malware since Android began, and it is estimated that some 98 percent of all mobile malware targets Android. However just 2 percent of that figure is via the Google Play Store, so you're still safer there than anywhere else.
Nevertheless, if you're the sort of person who likes random games like "Super Bouncy Ball 4U II" then you'll probably want to invest in a better anti-virus tool. µ
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