Google cannot patch 29% of Android Devices

In the smartphone market, Google’s Android OS is the clear market leader by volume. Unlike Apple’s iOS, Android is not under the control of its creator, and this has led to the popularity of the platform as well as multiple customization according to device manufacturer’s needs. Devices ranging from Samsung smartphones to Amazon Kindle e‑book reader / tablet use Android. It is estimated that over 1.4 billion Android Devices have been sold – roughly 1 device per 5 people on the planet.

With popularity and diversification come problems and many parties trying their best to exploit vulnerabilities in software. At one time, it was reported that as much as 99% of all smartphone malware affects devices running versions of Android. While Google has to a great extent reduced the absolute number of malware attacks, there still exists a large number of devices that can be, and are, exploited.

Google’s 2014 Android security report stated that fewer than 1% of Android devices had any malware, thanks largely in part due to scanning done by a product named Verify Apps that detects Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs). Although the 2015 version of Google’s Android security report paints a more optimistic picture than its predecessor, Android security still has a long way to go. Google and Samsung have launched monthly pushes of security updates in the wake of Stagefright, a security hole that affected up to 95% of all Android devices. Other device manufacturers have been slower to adapt this stance and mobile carriers even less so. This is complicated by the need to wrap their own software around Android updates, a direct result of Google leaving the updates in the hands of their partners.

Google has stated that it checks over 6 billion installed Android apps per day and as many as 400 million devices per day to protect users from PHAs from network-based and on-device threats. Google has also stated that 70.8% of all Android devices run modern versions of Android that it supports with patches. This leaves us with 29.2% of devices that are not supported. This might seem a minority, but with 1.4 billion Android devices on the planet, the total number of Android phones that are not being patched regularly or not supported at all comes to 409 million. Of this 409 million, it may be assumed that some manufacturers will, at their discretion, patch their version of Android, although it is impossible to predict when and if this will happen.

Your smartphone’s version of Android may or may not be updated regularly, but if you download and use Apps only from Google Play or known secure App stores and be on the lookout for security updates for your phone, you will be relatively safe. Remember: Only use apps that are absolutely necessary to avoid being vulnerable.

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