Android security experts reply to Google's accusations: not charlatans, the malware threat is real
Last week, Google’s open-source software captain Chris DiBona radically wrote off the malware threat for Android. The engineer explained that the sandboxing models and underlying kernel simply don’t allow the traditional virus issue in the way that it has affected desktop computers. Moreover, he called anti-virus software makers for Android, RIM and iOS "scammers and charlatans." Ouch.
"Virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you BS protection software for Android, RIM, and, iOS. They are charlatans and scammers. If you work for a company selling virus protection for Android, RIM or iOS, you should be ashamed of yourself," DiBona posted on Google+.
That couldn’t have gone unnoticed and it hasn’t - Denis Maslennikov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Labs, one of the anti-virus software makers begged to differ: “Today malware for Android devices is one of the biggest issues in [the] mobile malware area. The growth of numbers of malware for Android is significant in [the] last 5 months. In June we've discovered 112 modifications of Android malware, in July - 212; August - 161; 559 in September; 808 in October."
Now, the catch here seems to be in the definition of malware. DiBona stressed that it’s viruses in the traditional sense that are not an issue for Android and revolted against the practice of selling a product by marketing it as “anti-virus.” Security companies however point out that their apps tackle the growing number of Trojans, but also other cross-platform threats like phishing or premium fee scams.
Interestingly, F-Secure chief researcher Mikko Hypponen admitted that virus protection is merely a bonus feature of their mobile software: "What he [DiBona] is missing is that mobile security tools (like ours) do much more than just antivirus. Antitheft, remote lock, backup, parental control, Web filter -- these features are the main reason why people buy mobile security products. They get antivirus as a bonus," he said.
AVAST Software expert Ondrej Vicek also agrees that users following the best practices should feel safe, but pointed out that the problem is that most users don’t and that’s where the problem stems from for most users.
How do you personally look at the mobile security apps for Android - do you perceive them as revolving mainly around virus-protection or is anti-virus only a bonus for you when you download them?