Talking tech since 2003

Just yesterday I wrote about a move on the part of Google to enhance developers’ know-how and ability to create feature-rich tablet-focused applications for the Android mobile platform.  Many people, myself included, believe that this well-played move will help Google to overcome one of the largest issues with its mobile OS; the fact that many developers haven’t taken up an interest or desire in developing for it.  That said, even though Android is a wonderful mobile operating system that is incredibly feature-rich and arguably more versatile and flexible than Apple’s iOS, the platform really has been put on the developmental back-burner by developers who see a better potential (often times money-making) with iOS.  And while this single flaw is bad enough when it comes to smartphones, Android’s weak points in the tablet arena have ultimately made for incredibly low sales.

But while Android as a whole is failing to attract developers, there’s one category of applications that Google is seeing too much of.  Malware.  You see, just this week it was discovered that a rogue Android application was recording the phone calls of unsuspecting end-users.  But as horrid as that concept may sound, the fact of the matter is that malware and security threats on the Android platform aren’t uncommon at all, and in just six months between January and June the number of infected Android apps spiked from 80 to more than 400; an increase of 500%.  Can you think of any other Android application category that’s grown as exponentially?

At this point I really do think it’s fair to say that malware is and is going to continue to be a huge security and marketing issue for Google as the operating system becomes more popular.  I mean, just think of the amount of personal and extremely sensitive data that users store on their mobile phones and how tragic it would be for consumers if malicious applications and their developers were able to get at that data and do whatever they wanted with it.  And as this issue grows – which I’m sure it will – I honestly believe that the threat of tainted Android applications is going to scare consumers away.

But really, I’m somewhat confused as to why malware on the Android has even gotten to the point of being an epidemic.  After all, isn’t it Apple that has a larger user-base and Apple that has the selection and marketing focus on mobile applications?  So why are malware developers going after an operating system with a retrospectively smaller market share?  This is an argument that people have made for years in saying that Apple’s Mac OS X only has less security vulnerabilities because of the fact that fewer people use it and it’s not as big of a target for malware authors.  So why wouldn’t the same concept apply to Android now?

Personally, I believe that part of the issue is that because Android has a smaller selection of applications users are simply more willing to download an application that they find simply because it’s available and promises to be of use to the user.  Just look on the Internet and you’ll see countless examples of this concept.  One of the best examples would probably be malware for desktop operating systems that is cleverly disguised as hardware drivers; something that end-users intentionally search out and are oftentimes desperate for when they’re searching.

When it comes down to it, we really have to ask ourselves what Google can do.  It seems to me that the perfect solution would involve following application submission procedures similar to the ones that Apple carries out for developers to make their work available in the App Store, a process that people have looked down since Apple’s debut of the store.  But in doing so, Google would likely go at blows with their existing developers who have gotten used to the more relaxed submission process.  Really, it’s going to come down to the better of two evils.

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