Does Google Play Protect and Serve—Ads?

August 20, 2021

We hope, gentle reader, that you have not relied on the built-in Google Play Protect to safeguard your Android devices when downloading content from the Play store. MakeUseOf cites a recent report from AV-Test in, “Report: Google Play Protect Sucks at Detecting Malware.” Writer Gavin Phillips summarizes:

“With a maximum of 18 points on offer across the three test sections of Protection, Performance, and Usability, Google Play Protect picked up just 6.0—a full ten points behind the next option, Ikarus. AV-TEST pits each of the antivirus tools against more than 20,000 malicious apps. In the endurance test running from January to June 2021, there were three rounds of testing. Each test involved 3,000 newly discovered malware samples in a real-time test, along with a reference set of malicious apps using malware samples in circulation for around four weeks. Google Play Protect detected 68.8 percent of the real-time malware samples and 76.7 percent of the reference malware samples. In addition, AV-TEST installs around 10,000 harmless apps from the Play Store on each device, aiming to detect any false positives. Again, Google’s Play Protect came bottom of the pile, marking 70 harmless apps as malware.”

A chart listing the test’s results for each security solution can be found in the writeup or the report itself. More than half received the full 18 points while the rest fall between 16 and 17.8 points. Except for Google—its measly 6 points really set it apart as the worst option by far. Since Google “Protect” is the default security option for Android app downloads, this is great news for bad actors. The rest of us would do well to study the top half of that list. iOS users excepted.

Based in Magdeburg, Germany, research institute AV-Test pits the world’s cyber security solutions against its large collection of digital malware samples and makes results available to private users for free. The firm makes its money on consulting for companies and government institutions. AV-Test was founded in 2004 and was just acquired by Ufenau Capital Partners in February of this year.

Cynthia Murrell, August 20, 2021


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