Android gets a lot of stick for being insecure, but it’s not always deserved. According to Adrian Ludwig, director of Android security, Google’s new Pixel smartphones running the latest version of Android are just as secure as the iPhone.
There was a time when Android security wasn’t as strong as it could have been, and that’s why the platform has gotten a reputation (among iPhone fans, at least) for being insecure. But in recent years, Google has been focused on changing that.Android now boasts a feature called Safety Net, which scans 400 million devices and a whopping 6 billion apps every day to weed out malicious code. Thanks to features like these, Google’s platform is much stronger now.
Ludwig told attendees at the O’Reilly Security Conference this week that less than 1 percent of the Android devices in use today contain malware, or as Google calls it, “Potentially Harmful Applications.” Not even the big Stagefright fiasco was that significant.
If you don’t remember Stagefright, it was a vulnerability that was discovered last July and left almost 1 billion Android devices open to attack. Ludwig says, however, that Google never saw “any confirmed instances of exploitation in the wild.”
Just as secure as iPhone
Ludwig also says that the new Google Pixel phones, which ship with Android 7.1 Nougat pre-installed, are “for sure” just as secure as iPhone. “For almost all threat models, they are nearly identical in terms of their platform-level capabilities.”
The one thing that holds back Android security is slow updates. Google releases patches every single month, but it can take weeks if not months for manufacturers to optimize these for their own devices. Then carriers have to approve them before they’re released.
Ludwig says things have gotten better in the last year, with many manufacturers — particularly bigger ones like Samsung — promising monthly security updates, but it still needs work.
“We got quite a bit of work left to do to get to a point where that actually happens on a regular basis across the whole the ecosystem,” Ludwig said.
If the only reason you haven’t already swapped your iPhone for an Android is security, then, it seems like you have nothing to worry about.