Report: Google Play Protect Sucks at Detecting Malware


An AV-TEST report has revealed that Google Play Protect, Android’s built-in protection against malware and other nasties, isn’t up to scratch. AV-TEST is the world’s leading antivirus and antimalware testing lab, testing popular security products against a comprehensive list of malware and viruses.

Google Play Protect detected just over two-thirds out of more than 20,000 malicious apps, leading AV-TEST to deliver a damning test score of 0.0 Protection and 0.0 Usability.

Google Play Protect: Bottom of the Android Security Pile

AV-TEST’s results put Google Play Protect firmly at the bottom of the 15 Android security solutions tested. With a maximum of 18 points on offer across the three test sections of Protection, Performance, and Usability, Google Play Protect picked up just 6.0—a full ten points behind the next option, Ikarus.

According to Google, this protection is always active, automatically evaluating every app on the device. But the endurance test revealed that this service does not provide particularly good security: every other security app offers better protection than Google Play Protect.

AV-TEST pits each of the antivirus tools against more than 20,000 malicious apps. In the endurance test running from January to June 2021, there were three rounds of testing. Each test involved 3,000 newly discovered malware samples in a real-time test, along with a reference set of malicious apps using malware samples in circulation for around four weeks.

av-test 2021 android test results

Google Play Protect detected 68.8 percent of the real-time malware samples and 76.7 percent of the reference malware samples.

In addition, AV-TEST installs around 10,000 harmless apps from the Play Store on each device, aiming to detect any false positives. Again, Google’s Play Protect came bottom of the pile, marking 70 harmless apps as malware.

Is Google Play Protect Useless?

According to AV-TEST’s extensive six-month test, Google Play Protect isn’t up to much. Allowing thousands of malicious apps to pass through its defense is poor. Moreover, this should come as no surprise to Google, as Play Protect finished plum last in AV-TEST’s 2020 edition of the same test.

A year-on-year improvement of zero won’t bring music to the ears of Android users, either. Google touts the integrated protection as the only protection you need for your Android device, but these tests tell a very different story.

What’s the Best Android Security App?

In the 2021 test, 9 Android antivirus apps took home a maximum score of 18 points:

  • Avast
  • AVG
  • Bitdefender
  • F-Secure
  • G DATA
  • Kaspersky
  • McAfee
  • NortonLifeLock
  • Trend Micro

A further four apps scored 17 points or more, illustrating that Android does have top-quality security apps available—you just have to go out and find them first.


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