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Android 4.2 Malware Scanner Has 15% Detection Rate

The updated malware scanner that Google launched alongside Android 4.2 Jelly Bean detects only a small number of threats, a researcher has found. North Carolina State University computer science professor Xuxian Jiang said the Android scanner is "still nascent" due to a low detection rate of 15.32 percent.

"Overall, among these 1,260 samples, 193 of them can be detected," Jiang noted within his research report. "There exists room for improvement. Because of the introduction of this service, people may start to wonder, 'Are third-party security apps still necessary with Android 4.2?'"

Jiang added that while the new verification service doesn't boast a strong detection rate, it delivers side-loaded apps, such as the Amazon Appstore, for the first time in the mobile operating system's history. He went on to commend Google for at least including a malware scanner for Android's Google Play store, calling it "an exciting security feature". Jiang complimented the search engine giant for taking "measures to better protect Android users."

Jiang carried out a second batch of tests that includes a comparison of 10 third-party anti-virus engines, including ones from Avast, AVG, TrendMicro and Symantec.

"Overall, the detection rates of these representative anti-virus engines range from 51.02 percent to 100 percent while the detection rate of [Google's] new service is 20.41 percent."

"By introducing this new app verification service in Android 4.2, Google has shown its commitment to continuously improve security on Android," he added. Jiang also referred to Google's recent acquisition of VirusTotal as a promising sign for the future.

"We noticed that VirusTotal (owned by Google) has not been integrated yet into this app verification service. From our measurement results, VirusTotal performs much better than this standalone service. We expect such integration in the future will be helpful."

During the third quarter of 2012, Android’s malware issues led to the discovery of "a whopping 51,447 unique samples", according to security firm F-Secure.

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