Android: Malware Market apps in security clampdown

Posted on by Mike Evans

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This morning I was again reminded of the peace of mind that comes from owning Apple products. Up to now, and I don't expect this to continue for ever, OS X and iOS owners are spared much of the angst that Windows users and, it seems, Android fans have to face.

Techcrunch reports that 58 malicious applications have been uploaded to the Market. They had been downloaded 260,000 times before Google pulled the plug by remote deleting the malware. Although the apps were getting root access, it seems that the damage done has been minimal. But it is the underlying situation that worries me.

With the openness of the Android platform there are dozens of variations on the operating system in the wild. Users are often tied in to the particular OS version customised by their phone manufacturer and, as a result some are still stuck on the earliest builds which are naturally most susceptible to invasion. However rapidly Google responds to a security threat, there is always going to be a delay of many months before even a simple majority of devices is protected.

Those who know how to tinker and love to fiddle with their systems strongly support the openness of Android because they feel more in control. A small number of iPhone users jailbreak for the same reasons. Yet I believe that the vast majority of Android users are not at all interested in customisation and openness. They, in common with probably 99 percent of iPhone users in the world, are happy with what they are given and have no desire to tinker.

Apple are often criticised for their stranglehold on the OS and on the App Store, but I am grateful for this level of control if it brings such peace of mind. When a security threat is detected a software update can be made available to every customer within hours. All it takes to be protected is a quick sync with iTunes. This, combined with an apparently stronger application vetting process against malware and bad practice gives the iPhone and iPad owner a quieter life. That, after all, is what we all want.

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