Software & Apps

Google rolls out continual app security scan for Android

Updated:2014/4/11 15:16

Android can look forward to an extra layer of security from today as Google adds constant, on-device scanning of its Verify Apps offering to its mobile operating system.

App scanning has been available for Android for  two years now, and the constant on-device monitoring builds on this existing security technology, Google security engineer Rich Cannings said.

The Verify Apps system, which users can enable on their devices and which is available on Android version 2.3 and above, has been used more than four billion times to scan code before installation to prevent malware finding its way onto user devices, Google estimates.

Cannings said potentially harmful applications are very rare, and doesn't expect most users will see many warnings come through the constant monitoring system.

The hugely popular Android operating system has been singled out as a mobile malware magnet by security vendors, a situation that Google last year said was incorrect and overblown.

Speaking at the annual Virus Bulletin conference in Berlin last year, Google's boss of Android security Adrian Ludwig presented figures that showed less than an estimated 0.001 per cent of malware installed are able to evade the multi-layer security system on Android devices.

Ludwig was able to draw on data from 1.5 billion app installs from outside Google's Play store, which he said indicates that Android malware is not a significant threat to users.

Whether or not the additional security system can protect users against fake and fraudulent apps in Google Play, such as the recently removed Virus Shield that hit the top download charts, is unclear.

The US$3.99 (AUD$4.30) Virus Shield promised protection against malware and harmful apps, but didn't actually do anything apart from changing an icon when users tapped on the screen, according to Android Police which decompiled the app to investigate it.

Virus Shield was downloaded tens of thousands of times by users, netting its unknown developer a large amount of money before it was removed by Google.

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