Google Play Protect: So Far, Behind the Competition
It’s often so with built-in security solutions. Though Google knows everything about Android, and it controls the Play Store, its Google Play Protect turned out to be the least reliable of the 15 anti-malware solutions tested by AV-Test. All the third-party solutions do the job better.
In theory, Google Play Protect checks all the apps you install from Google Play Market before they make it to your device. This should provide an extra level of security, in addition to your local protection and the store moderation. In fact, it’s far from this idyllic picture.
Put’Em to the Test
AV Test, an independent German company specializing in mobile security, has conducted its own test of malware detecting apps. The procedure took six months, from January to June 2021. The number of apps used in tests is in thousands, including thousands of already discovered malware apps. Special attention was paid to fresh malware (less than one month in circulation).
This particular test focuses on consumer security apps. It implies scenarios that are more probable for personal phones: for example, tested apps include more games than corporate security solution tests.
He Attac, But He No Protec
The results turned out disappointing for Google Play Protect. Its performance is quite good, optimized for almost any Android device. The app did not drain the battery or sweat the CPU. Neither did it use too much data. On the other hand, all the rivals boast the same result here. Both protection and usability, on the other hand, appeared poorer than one might expect, both scoring zero, which renders the app useless.
Not only does GPP have problems detecting malware (which leads to hundreds of fraudulent apps making it to the Play Store). It also produces too many false positives, attacking quite harmless apps that require certain permissions for functioning. With its expertise in Android, Google should have done better than this. Maybe this research will act as a cold shower for Mountain View, urging them to review their approach to security.
So, What Instead?
While the original solution by Google turned out to be the worst of them, you’re naturally interested in the winners. There are nine of them: Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, F-Secure, G Data, Kaspersky, McAfee, NortonLifeLock, and TrendMicro. All of them scored 6 out of 6 in all the three tests. While Avast, AVG, and Kaspersky showed minor errors (that didn’t impact the overall result), the rest of the winners worked out flawlessly.
The other contestants (namely Avira, Protected.net, securiON, AhnLab, and Ikarus) were a bit worse, but still better than Google. Any of them will be a better choice. The only advantage Google has over these (in theory) is being free. Other security solutions offer both free and advanced paid plans.
Time to Ditch GPP?
Google is known to often close projects that did not live up to the expectations. Messengers and bookmark services, maps and VR projects, music, smart home, and… What else? The Google Graveyard never runs out of plots.
After such a disappointment, Google may start developing a completely new protection system, ditching the old one as soon as the replacement is ready. It may be time to review it, as Google switches to the new app format named AAB instead of the good old APK. Before it happens, though, you better back it up with a third-party solution, probably one of the highest-rated.
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