Android Security Remains a Glaring Problem: 10 Reasons Why

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-03-25 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Android has grabbed an unassailable position in the mobile operating system market. In fact, some estimates put Android's global smartphone market share at 87 percent and rising. Most analysts believe that in a matter of years, Android will be as dominant in mobile as Windows was years ago in the desktop PC market. Google, through its partnerships with vendors, advertisers and application marketplaces, will benefit greatly from that. But there's another far less positive parallel between Windows and Android that cannot be underestimated. According to the latest data from security firm F-Secure, 97 percent of all mobile malware targeted Android devices in 2013. In 2012 that figure stood at 79 percent. What's worse, the total number of malware signatures is on the rise. In 2012, the mobile firm identified 238 Android threats. Now, that figure stands at 804. Those statistics, coupled with the ongoing concern among enterprise customers that no single security solution even comes close to solving the mobile world's troubles, should make just about anyone worry about Android security. Read on to find out why:

 
 
 
  • Android Security Remains a Glaring Problem: 10 Reasons Why

    By Don Reisinger
    Android Security Remains a Glaring Problem: 10 Reasons Why
  • The Market Share Doesn't Lie

    Why should you worry about Android security? Perhaps there's no better justification than the very fact that 97 percent of all mobile malware is targeting Android. That means that the chances of getting malware on other platforms is exceedingly low, and it speaks to the great efforts that need to be made to improve Android security.
    The Market Share Doesn't Lie
  • Android Fragmentation

    The Android ecosystem is still a fragmented mess. As of this writing, Android Jelly Bean is the most common OS, with about two-thirds of the Android ecosystem. However, a massive number of devices still run Android 2.2 Froyo, Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, those older versions don't have the security features found in the later Android releases. However, millions of people are still using the older Android versions, and so face a greater risk from malware and cyber-attacks.
    Android Fragmentation
  • We've Seen This Play Out Before

    The scary thing about the growth in malware in the Android ecosystem is that it's eerily similar to the ramp-up with Windows. As malicious hackers saw more and more people move to Windows, they almost exclusively turned their attention to that platform. And as time goes on and more people use the software, the threats only increase. Windows is playing out all over again.
    We've Seen This Play Out Before
  • Unauthorized App Stores Are a Concern

    Interestingly, the Google Play store that Google runs is by no means a threat to users. In fact, just 0.1 percent of all malware samples were discovered in the company's store. It's when users start to venture into new territory by downloading apps from unauthorized app stores that all kinds of issues happen. F-Secure said that users should steer clear of unauthorized app stores.
    Unauthorized App Stores Are a Concern
  • Google Is Trying

    There's no debating that Google is trying to improve Android security. With each new software launch, the company improves the security of its offerings. But there's an issue: The malware creators are always a step ahead. If those people are able to stay ahead of a company with as much money, power and influence as Google, what does that say about the state of security in the Android ecosystem?
    Google Is Trying
  • Google Play Ubiquity Isn't Complete

    As noted, Google Play is a quite safe marketplace. However, it's not nearly as ubiquitous as it should be. There are still countless countries in which Google Play isn't available, and there's no developer support in key countries, such as Brazil. Google Play is arguably the safest place to get apps in the Android ecosystem and yet, it's not readily available around the world. That's a huge issue.
    Google Play Ubiquity Isn't Complete
  • Globalization Is a Killer

    Following that, it's important to note that while being in the U.S. where Google Play is available might mean better security, one needs to consider the impact globalization has on the entire space. We're in a globalized world where the actions of one person will impact people around the world. That's especially the case in the security space, where people who get hit with malware in, say, Europe can hurt the overall security of people in the U.S. or elsewhere. Globalization has been both a blessing and a curse. And when it comes to security issues, it's the latter.
    Globalization Is a Killer
  • Hardware Vendors: Partly to Blame

    As F-Secure points out in its study, hardware vendors might be partly to blame in the case of Android security. The onus is on hardware vendors to get new Android versions up and running on devices, and they've largely lagged behind where they should be. Software updates are crucial to Android security.
    Hardware Vendors: Partly to Blame
  • The Numbers (and Malicious Efforts) Will Increase

    There's no doubt that Android security issues will only increase in the coming years. As shown by F-Secure's data between 2012 and 2013, new threats are nearly quadrupling year-over-year. Whether that rate of growth will keep up over time remains to be seen, but it's entirely possible that the growth will continue over the long term. Simply put, if you think things are bad now, get ready—they're only going to get worse.
    The Numbers (and Malicious Efforts) Will Increase
  • Mobile Security Is Generally Worrisome

    The final reason to worry about Android security doesn't have anything to do with Android at all. Mobile security in general is very worrisome. Threats are coming fast and furious from apps, SMS, Web browsers and other holes that malicious hackers can exploit. Until the mobile security space becomes an area of concern for users and security companies alike, it's hard to see how things will get any better.
    Mobile Security Is Generally Worrisome
 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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