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AI helped remove over 700,000 malicious Android apps in 2017

Google reviewed the success of its Play Store app safeguards in a post to its Android developers blog this week. The company said it has managed to halve the probability of users installing a malicious app from the store. It’s also made it harder for developers to get abusive apps into the store.
In total, over 700,000 apps from more than 100,000 developers were removed over the course of the past 12 months. With Google claiming 99% of the tally never got installed, the figures suggest around 7,000 apps were distributed through the store before Google managed to remove them.
Malicious apps remain a problem area for Google Play. Despite Google’s efforts to present the store as a safe source of app downloads, the reality is that serious malware still slips through the net. In 2017, several malicious apps achieved widespread circulation before they were pulled. These harmful apps can be difficult for users to identify, particularly if they’ve been installed from the supposedly secure Play Store.
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In its blog post, Google said it’s made significant progress to address bad apps but recognised there’s further work to do. The company’s now developing targeted solutions to address different categories of bad app.
These include apps with inappropriate content, “potentially harmful” apps that intentionally harm the user or device and “copycats.” The latter category refers to apps that impersonate a major brand or service, which can confuse users and lead to unintentional malware downloads.
“Apps bring devices to life – letting you book a ride instantly, connect and share memories with friends, be alerted about current events, play games with someone across the globe, and get work done in the office or on the road,” said Google. “Google Play is committed to providing a safe experience for billions of Android users to find and discover such apps. Over the years, this commitment has made Google Play a more trusted and safer place.”
Going into 2018, Google said it’s now in a better place to identify and take action against malicious apps. It directly attributed its success to the use of new machine learning models. This technique has allowed the company to detect potential policy infringements more quickly, using new automated tools which flag alerts for investigation. It’s now continuing to scale these systems to provide further protection within the Play Store.

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