Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person? How would you rate the following story then? The fact that 50% of Google’s Android devices have now received much-needed security updates is good news. However, the fact that the other 50% remains unpatched is hardly reassuring.
Google is keen to emphasise that its 1.4 billion Android devices are now better encrypted, that it receives more ‘bug bounty’ glitch tip-offs and that there is generally less malware in its Google Play store. Nevertheless, as a result of its fragmented operating system, it is still struggling to persuade both manufacturers and carriers to patch hack-able flaws on Android phones and tablets, leaving it trailing behind rivals such as Apple.
In fact, less than 3% of Android phones run its latest operating system version, Nougat. That fragmentation is a cause of the trouble is unsurprising – but it also means it’s not an easily solved problem. The sheer number of operating system variations makes Android attractive to hardware manufacturers and carriers but it also makes Google’s job of patching vulnerabilities a bit of a sisyphean task.
The verdict? A reasonably good effort, but could – and must – do better in future.