Google released its Android Security 2017 Year in Review report today, the fourth installment of the company’s attempt to educate the public about Android’s various layers of security and its failings. One of the most interesting learnings to come out of the report is that 60.3 percent of Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) were detected via machine learning.
The detection is done by a service called Google Play Protect, which is enabled on over 2 billion devices (running Android 4.3 and up) to constantly scan Android apps for malicious activity. Play Protect uses a variety of tactics to keep users and their data safe, but machine learning is particularly effective in helping catch PHAs.
Automatic and manual scanning
When Google shared earlier this year that more than 700,000 apps were removed from Google Play in 2017 for violating the app store’s policies (a 70 percent year-over-year increase), the company credited its implementation of machine learning models and techniques to detect abusive app content and behaviors such as impersonation, inappropriate content, or malware.
But the company did not share any details. Now we’re learning that 6 out of every 10 detections were thanks to machine learning. Oh, and the team says “we expect this to increase in the future.”
Every day, Play Protect automatically reviews more than 50 billion apps — these automatic reviews led to the removal of nearly 39 million PHAs last year, Google shared. Play Protect automatically checks Android devices for PHAs at least once every day, but users can conduct a review manually if they want: