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Android Malware Issues Rise : The Implications

TelecomsNews
by Mark Mason
, 30 Aug 2011News

New research from McAfee suggests that Android is the most attacked mobile OS, jumping 76 per cent in Q2 this year.  Clearly there is a correlation here with usage. As smartphones increase in popularity, it is a given that malware issues will increase, but it does highlight the issues associated with Android's open platform in particular... or does it?  

Android's open platform offers a lot of advantages.  Firstly, Android developers are able to access the very same framework API's used by the core Android team. Secondly, there is a lot of re-use of API’s across the platform, meaning that developers can copy and improve upon certain components without starting from scratch. For example, with Android you can replace the standard keyboard, with alternatives such as Swiftkey or Swipe – something you definitely cannot do with iOS.

When it comes to malware however, an open platform does present more risks. In the case of Android though, a lot of the malware issues do not actually stem from the openness of the platform. The issues are more related to the lack of approval process on the Marketplace. While the Android marketplace offers more freedom and flexibility, it carries a higher risk for end users. The lack of management in this regard causes issues whereby anyone can upload apps without restriction. A further issue is the lack of education about the risks to end users. In the same way that malicious software can make its way onto desktop systems such as Windows, people do not look at the permissions when they download an app. By not fully understanding the risks, they open themselves up to apps that can access all sorts of data without knowing anything about it. This is an area that needs to be improved upon in order to see a reduction in the number of malware issues. Amazon has managed to create a safe place for Android users to download apps in the U.S. with the creation of the Amazon App Store. This is a verified store with specific set guidelines that ensure every app is checked to deliver a safe environment for users, safe in the knowledge that none of their personal data is put at risk.

Until Amazon roll this out to the UK and wider markets, there is an opportunity for a company to create an app store that follows this same practice. By doing so, the company could potentially reap the rewards of this 'safer' environment. Of course, this early first mover advantage could then be removed as soon as Amazon does make its App Store available to a global audience or Google introduces more stringent rules. Wouldn’t it be fun to try though?

While the much publicized issues around the level of Malware on Android doesn’t appear to have affected Android sales, it certainly does beg the question of what will happen once fragmentation and Malware issues disappear.

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