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Google's latest security report reveals 2016's most patched Android smartphones

Posted: , by Kaloyan C.

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Android as a platform hasn't historically been known for its security – quite the opposite, in fact: there's been tons of reports of malware infecting the operating system, and even Google's own Play Store. But the company has stated its intent to combat the problem many times, and this has led to implementing several measures to that effect, such as the now-standard monthly security updates. Today, Google has released its yearly security report for the platform, highlighting what it did to fight the problem of Android malware throughout 2016.

First of all, with the launch of Android 7.0 Nougat, Google added several new behind-the-scenes features designed to enhance security. First of them is a streamlined our boot-up process, which makes installing OTA updates much easier to install. Along with it came support for file-based encryption, and a re-architecturing of components to prevent a future Stagefright-like attack, along with many other, smaller changes.

Besides this, Google took some measures to encourage security best practices among Play Store developers, too, which includes launching 18 campaigns to notify devs of vulnerabilities. Also, the company has its own set of tools to protect users, with its Verify Apps feature built into every Play Services-enabled phone automatically scanning apps for malicious code.

Google is also sponsoring its own Android Security Rewards Program, which sponsors security researchers who find and report vulnerabilities in the OS, and has paid nearly one million dollars to 125 research teams. Besides that, the company also participated in external vulnerability finding competitions, which led to patches made for less than 24 and supplied to users in less than a month.

But the company didn't just boast about its own security practices, as it also released a list of Android devices with the most security patches for 2016: Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Motorola Moto Z Droid, Oppo A33W, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, OnePlus 3, Samsung Galaxy S7, Asus Zenfone 3, bq Aquarius M5, Nexus 5, Vivo V3Max, LG V20, and Sony Xperia X Compact. Curiously enough, several of the major Chinese manufacturers, such as Xiaomi and Huawei, are nowhere to be found on this list.

As good as all of this this sounds, however, Google fixing security problems has little effect on the end user, unless manufacturers then distribute these fixes in software updates. While many vendors have upped their game since the inception of the monthly security updates program, Android's weakest point is still updates, as evidenced by the abysmal Nougat adoption rates. Still, things seem to slowly be getting better, so here's hoping 2017 becomes the year when manufacturers start regularly updating their devices.

17 Comments
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posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:05 2

1. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)


I thought Android was secure?

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:15 7

5. corsair (Posts: 10; Member since: 14 Feb 2017)


And that's why they have patches... in order to remain secure.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 15:59

13. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)


Releasing a bunch of patches isn't a good example of being secure.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 17:29 1

15. mikehunta727 (Posts: 1054; Member since: 12 Sep 2014)


Monthly security patches are important. Not sure what your saying. Apple does pretty much it themselves with iOS updates, there is about a update to iOS every 2 months roughly, that contains security fixes/improvements to the OS/new features/etc

Not releasing patches perodically IS a good example of not being as secure as possible

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:45 4

7. maple_mak (Posts: 855; Member since: 18 Dec 2013)


I thought iOS was secure?

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:45 5

8. maple_mak (Posts: 855; Member since: 18 Dec 2013)


No OS are secured.*

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 08:19

12. mikehunta727 (Posts: 1054; Member since: 12 Sep 2014)


It's not as secure as iOS still buy but having a Pixel or Blackberry device on Android with BB's defense suite or really any device on Nougat/at least Feb 2017 security patch is pretty dang safe for the moment

Having your apps fully updated too is important

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:08 3

2. Feanor (Posts: 845; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)


The list is probably indicative; e.g. I know for sure that the Sony Xperia XZ has also received the same security updates with the X Compact and the X Performance possibly too.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:09 1

3. ibend (Posts: 6633; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)


and where is blackberry?

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 16:00

14. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)


Android phones.

posted on 31 Mar 2017, 01:47

17. meanestgenius (Posts: 16265; Member since: 28 May 2014)


BlackBerry is on the list.

https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/source.android.com/en//security/reports/Google_Android_Security_2016_Report_Final.pdf

"Several manufacturers, including Samsung,
LG, BLACKBERRY, and OnePlus, regularly deliver security updates to flagship devices on the same day as Google’s updates to Nexus and Pixel devices, thereby providing their customers with the most up-to-date security available."

“The combination of regular monthly security updates and fast responses by Android device manufacturers significantly mitigated the impact of zero day vulnerabilities against the Android platform. For example, CVE-2016-5195 (also known as Dirty Cow) was publicly disclosed on October 19, 2016. As the Android Security 2016 Year in Review / Android Platform Security 29 patch was available from upstream Linux, some device manufacturers, such
as BLACKBERRY, deployed a fix in time for the November 2016 security update. We created a special patch string (November 06, 2016) for devices to indicate the vulnerability had been fixed. A fix was required for the December 01, 2016 security patch level.”

“Here are some of the Android devices that attained an update rate of 60% to 95% by the end of 2016: 2 Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Motorola Moto Z, Droid, Oppo A33W, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, OnePlus OnePlus3, Samsung Galaxy S7, Asus Zenfone 3, bq Aquarius M5, Nexus 5, Vivo V3Max, LGE V20, Sony Xperia X Compact, BLACKBERRY PRIV.”

I put BlackBerry in all caps myself, but those are excerpts from the link I posted, which is the official report. I find that it's better to read from the source article if you want to get all of the facts, as opposed to the cherry picking that some sites choose to do.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:14

4. DeDex (Posts: 111; Member since: 01 Sep 2014)


"Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Motorola Moto Z Droid, Oppo A33W, Nexus 6P, [...] Curiously enough, no devices by the major Chinese manufacturers, such as Xiaomi, Huawei, or Oppo, can be found on this list."

Actually, you yourselves mention Oppo's A33W in your list. Granted, it is not a top-tier device, but still.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 05:21

6. Kaloyan.C (Posts: 17; Member since: 25 Feb 2017)


Whoops, I totally didn't catch that, thanks a lot! Should be fixed now.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 06:18

9. WAusJackBauer (Posts: 311; Member since: 22 Mar 2015)


Nexus 5? No way

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 06:38

10. Macready (Posts: 1475; Member since: 08 Dec 2014)


"While many vendors have upped their game since the inception of the monthly security updates program, Android's weakest point is still updates, as evidenced by the abysmal Nougat adoption rates."

Apples and oranges. OS updates are a completely separate issue.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 06:39

11. maple_mak (Posts: 855; Member since: 18 Dec 2013)


You may blame OEM.

posted on 23 Mar 2017, 17:47

16. trojan_horse (Posts: 4662; Member since: 06 May 2016)


Google Pixel leads this chart, as expected.

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