Android 4.2 malware filter works only with 15% of the… known malware, research shows

December 10, 2012
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This isn’t the first time we talk about the enhanced security features available in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. First, we looked at these features before Android 4.2 was official, at a time a leaked ROM was used to try to guess some of the upcoming features of the new Android version. Then Google explained how the Android 4.2 verify apps feature should work to protect users from downloading potentially harmful apps on their Android devices.

But it turns out that these optional-for-users Android 4.2 security features, which can only protect Android users that are on the last Android version, only work with 15% of the known malware that targets Android devices. And there’s new malware popping up on a regular basis, targeting all sorts of operating systems, Android included.

Is that number troubling? Should you be afraid? Not really!

The malware issue is still present in Android-related coverage, but I haven’t heard yet any horror stories, or the kind of juicy malware stuff Microsoft wants Android users to share in its recent Twitter-based #DroidRage campaign.

But savvy Android and/or computer users (should) know how to protect themselves against malicious apps, or at least take appropriate steps to make sure they avoid becoming victims.

And the fact that Google is trying to improve Android security should certainly help, even if what the company is offering is still not perfect yet. At the same time, the company could and should do better than that, and that includes improving that malware app detection rate in its latest Android versions, making sure the Play Store is safer, and offering some similar support to Android devices that won’t make it to Android 4.2.

The recent research, performed by NC State University associate Computer Science professor Xuxian Jiang, reveals that Android 4.2 was able to detect only 15.32% of “known malware, compared to existing third-party security apps, which unsurprisingly fared much better,” as The Next Web puts it.

So how much known Android malware is there? The study used 1,260 samples “belonging to 49 different malware families.” Such apps were installed on Nexus 10 tablets and, of those samples, Android 4.2’s security features recognized just 193.

The other apps used to detect these malicious apps were ten “representative” anti-virus programs including Avast, AVG, TrendMicro, Symantec, BitDefender, ClamAV, F-Secure, Fortinet, Kaspersky and Kingsoft. Detection rates went from 51.02% to 100%, with researches only “randomly picked up a sample from each malware family.”

Obviously, Android security will improve over time, but meanwhile, no matter what Android versions you run, make sure you don’t sideload apps from untrusted sources and that you pay attention to the apps you get from official sources as well.

Additionally, if you do install plenty of apps from various sources, make sure you have an anti-virus program – to run alongside the Android 4.2 security features provided you have Android 4.2 on your device and its security features are enabled – to try to minimize the risks of running malicious apps on your device.

Have you had any malware problems on your Android smartphone or tablet?

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