Don’t explicitly trust Google Play Protect, concludes independent audit: ‘Every other security app offers better protection’?

Google Play Protect Malware
Don’t trust in-built security solutions blindly. Pic credit: Christoph Scholz/Flickr

The Android app ecosystem has Google Play Protect which claims to scan more than 100 billion apps each day. However, an independent, third-party audit claims “every other security app offers better protection.”

Google’s Android mobile threat protection platform may sound reassuring, but in real-life tests, it has reportedly performed very poorly. The platform detected just over two-thirds of the malicious apps that a security research company threw at it.

Google Play Protect scans more than 100 billion apps daily:

Google introduced the Play Protect platform back in 2017. The security solution started rolling out to Android devices within the same year.

The search giant has deployed its mobile threat protection solution across billions of devices. In fact, it is the default or built-in malware protection on over 2.5 billion active Android devices.

Google has already teamed up with ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium to establish the App Defense Alliance. The group intends to improve Android malware detection on submission.

In other words, the alliance is working on mechanisms to block malicious apps before they list on the Play Store. The App Defense Alliance clearly wants to prevent rouge developers from publishing malware-laden apps on the Google Play Store.

Google’s Android mobile threat protection claims to automatically scan over 100 billion apps every day. Needless to mention, the platform has to check a very large number of apps.

Hence, it is understandable if a handful of rogue apps manage to evade detection. After all, even Apple Inc. cannot successfully block each and every malicious app.

However, according to AV-TEST’s results, Google’s mobile threat protection solution did not perform better than any of the 15 Android security apps it was competing with.

Google Play Protect ranked last out of 15 Android security apps in endurance test:

While always running and scanning every app installed and launched on the device, “the endurance test revealed that this service does not provide particularly good security: every other security app offers better protection than Google Play Protect,” claims a new report.

Needless to mention, this is a serious claim. It will be prudent to wait for Google’s official response before drawing any conclusions.

The report claims that 15 Android security apps were tested over a span of six months, between January and June 2021. During the endurance test, Google Play Protect reportedly detected a little over two-thirds of nearly 20,000 infected apps the testing lab used as part of three rounds of tests.

Additionally, Google Play Protect reported “False Positives” for about 70 apps. AV-TEST had chosen about 10,000 harmless apps to test this aspect.

“A total of 5 apps always detected all the attackers, 100 percent in the real-time test and in the test with the reference set.”

“Finishing in the last place, Google Play Protect only detected 68.8 percent in the real-time test and 76.6 percent in the test with the reference set.”

The five mobile security apps that had a perfect 100 percent detection rate are Bitdefender, G DATA, McAfee, NortonLifeLock, and Trend Micro.

It is important to note that Google Play Protect has a way bigger responsibility than any of the third-party apps. None of the apps have to go through billions of apps on a daily basis.

All the third-party security solutions have to guard the device on which they are installed. Simply put, the AV-TEST report merely indicates that Android device users should use a second security app to block malware that may slip through Google Play Protect clutches.

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