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Android Jelly Bean virus scanner only 15 per cent effective

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Android 4.2 Jelly Bean comes with a new application verification service - a virus scanner - for added security, but a recent test has revealed that it only picks up around 15 per cent of known viruses.

Over at North Carolina State University, they've been putting the new security measures in Android 4.2 through their paces. The results are not good.

Computer scientist Xuxian Jiang found that of the 1,260 Android viruses he fed into the recently release Google Nexus 10 tablet - which comes with Android 4.2 pre-installed - only 193 were picked up by the new virus scanner. That's a detection rate of 15.32 per cent.

What makes this result all the more surprising is that many of the sample viruses used are known to Google. Members of the research community have previously brought them to the company's attention.

According to Jiang, the Android app scanner's problem is that it only collects a relatively shallow pool of information from each app in order to check for viruses. This method is "fragile and can be easily bypassed."

The advice, then, is to keep hold of that third party anti-virus software for now - at least if you download a lot of applications from the official Google Play app store. In the same test, Jiang found that the third party alternatives were at worst more than twice as effective.

There is a glimmer of hope offered by the report that Google could turn things around pretty dramatically for its Android virus scanner. In September Google acquired the VirusTotal free anti-virus tool, which dealt with a random sample of Android viruses far better than the default Google scanner.

If Google plans to incorporate the VirusTotal tools into its virus scanner (and why wouldn't it?) things could improve dramatically with a relatively simple software update.

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