Android's built-in malware scanner detects just 15 per cent of threats

By Danny Palmer
11 Dec 2012 View Comments
Concept image representing virus malware

Android's own malware scanner only detects a fraction of threats to the Google device operating system, according to the results of one researcher.

A short report published by Xuxian Jiang, professor of computer science at North Carolina State University, suggests Google's app verification process which went live with Android 4.2: Jellybean detects just 20 per cent of harmful applications.

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"By introducing this new app verification service in Android 4.2, Google has shown its commitment to continuously improve security on Android," wrote Jiang.

"However, based on our evaluation results, we feel this service is still nascent and there exists room for improvement."

Of 1,260 malicious apps running on Google Nexus 7 tablets, only 193 were detected by Jellybean's in-built malware scanner. That's a detection rate of only 15 per cent meaning a huge 85 per cent of harmful apps passed unnoticed.

It's a minuscule amount compared with the detection rate of third-party anti-virus detectors, such as VirusTotal, which was acquired by Google in September. Jiang points out this could be is a positive sign of things to come.

"We notice that VirusTotal (owned by Google) has not been integrated yet into this app verification service. From our measurement results, VirusTotal performs much better than this standalone service. For improved detection results, we expect such integration in the future will be helpful," he said.

Mobile malware has surged during 2012, with Android smartphones and tablets far more likely to be attacked than their iOS counterparts.

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