Google scans billions of apps and millions of phones for dangerous content

Hunting security threats such as spyware, Google last year scanned 400 million Android devices per day and checked six billion installed apps, it said in its annual Android security report. “We’ve significantly improved our machine learning and event correlation to detect potentially harmful behavior,” Google said in a blog post.

The company found that downloading apps from the Google Play store was considerably safer than using other services. More than three times as many devices that contained apps installed from both Play and other sources had “potentially harmful apps” on board than did devices with only apps from Play, according to Google.

One in 200 devices with apps from both Play and other sources had issues, Google reported.

The firm credited its security enhancements for a 40 percent reduction in the probability of installing a potentially dangerous app via Play in 2015 compared to 2014.

For those obtaining apps through other sources than Play, Google offers security screening. Its “verify apps” service has been expanded to not only check apps before they’re downloaded, but to “continually” keep tabs on them, “to make sure that all apps are behaving in a safe manner, even after installation,” Google said in a blog post.

Also, the firm is reaching beyond itself to crowd-source security analysis. Since June, Android has been part of Google’s Vulnerability Rewards Program, which pays bounties to researchers who find bugs. “We fixed over 100 vulnerabilities reported this way and paid researchers more than $200,000 for their findings,” the company said.

Photo:  Google headquarters in Mountain View (Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images)


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