Google says Android is as secure as iOS while remaining more open-source

Android is leaning into its differences from iOS

Following in the footsteps of many a Googler before him, David Kleidermacher, Google’s head of security for Android, Google Play and Chrome OS, is claiming Android is just as safe as the competition: Apple’s iOS.

In an interview with CNET, published as Google released its 2017 year-in-review report for Android security, Kleidermacher talked about “retrofitting” security into Android phones, rather than attempting to copy Apple’s model for security.

Apple’s iOS is secure mainly because the manufacturer can deliver security updates directly to iPhones and it also prevents users from getting apps from outside of the App Store.

Meanwhile, Android security updates pass through a diverse array of global manufacturers, which causes fragmentation. This allows users to download software outside of the Google Play Store, which naturally allows for the presence of more potentially harmful apps.

But Google is leaning into the open-source nature of its platform when it comes to improving security. It’s focusing on paying freelance bug hunters more money, requiring phone makers to agree to more regular update schedules and employing Google Play Protect (launched in May) to scan devices for apps it knows are bad and mitigate the risk.

Google is also using machine learning to keep the Google Play Store clean, reporting that its technology found 60.3 percent of all potentially harmful apps within the Play Store.

And all this seems like it’s working.

Google reduced the annual probability of downloading a potentially harmful app through Google Play from .04 percent in 2016 to .02 percent in 2017.

It also reported that the majority of deployed devices for over 200 different android models from over 30 device manufacturers are running a security update from the last 90 days.

Additionally, Google says Google Play Protect automatically disabled potentially harmful apps from roughly 1 million devices in 2017 and reviewed about 23 million new apps, up 65 percent from 2016.

Find the full report here.