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Android security experts reply to Google's accusations: not charlatans, the malware threat is real

Posted: , by Victor H.

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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?

source: PCWorld

28 Comments
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posted on 23 Nov 2011, 03:10 3

1. The_Miz (Posts: 1496; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)


First. Figured Google would pull this card. Virus and malware threat on Android is very real.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 03:44 2

2. bigboy029 (Posts: 74; Member since: 03 Jan 2011)


I agree. Of course, people very tech-savvy will most likely not fall for malware tricks, but some people that dont know phones and apps too well might. It's just one of the downsides to having an open market like android does. (There are benefits too, of course)

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 07:41 1

6. iamcc (Posts: 1319; Member since: 07 Oct 2011)


So real, in fact, that after owning several Android phones over the last two years I have had to cross my fingers every time I unlock the phone just PRAYING I don't have any malware.

OH WAIT! Nope.

Siamese twins are very real too but how many people are born joined at the skull?

By the way miz, you know you are pretty much the only person on this site who makes sure to point out they are "first"... what are you trying to prove?

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 07:57

8. networkdood (Posts: 6267; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


No, iamcc, I have seen plenty of others, yell \"FIRST!\" on here....something you will not catch me doing, even though I have been FIRST! on a few stories, lately :-)

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 08:00

10. iamcc (Posts: 1319; Member since: 07 Oct 2011)


Maybe I just don\'t notice it as much but I can count on one hand how many times I\'ve seen people do it other than miz.

In that case I stand corrected. Sorry miz.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 08:01

11. networkdood (Posts: 6267; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


Now, I was just first on the story of APPLE BLACK FRIDAY sales....and I did mention FIRST!! - See MIZ, that is how the BIG BOYS play :-()

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 05:18

3. sumdude (Posts: 50; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)


It seems like a real issue to me. I picked up an autorun .exe off of a Youtube video stream on my first DX. Buffering turned out to be downloading through the flash player. As luck would have it the video was about malware. App. hung, then I had to pull the battery to restart. Powered back up, taking 3x as long to boot than normal.Home screen showed that Lookout was taken offline, restarting took forever and when it did come back, it looked and scanned normal but it was very decieving because my Lookout account was shut down and I was unable to access it seconds after I tried logging in. I had 2 temp folders in my sd card that didn't belong there. Which were empty but could not be erased. Lookout insisted their product would have caught it if it was malware, I'm dumh but not dumb enough to believe that. That phone crashed for good a few days later. I also think threadjacking is in the works cuz .jpgs have tried downloading content onto my phone as well. Only reason it failed is because of the datasaver feature that blocks all downloads from the Net in settings.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 07:58

9. networkdood (Posts: 6267; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


Funny, whenever I get something downloaded to my PC or when visiting a site, McAfee tells me if it is good or not...You just have to be more careful.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 05:26 4

4. snowgator (Posts: 3209; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)


For all the people I have known with an Android phone, nobody has gotten an infection on their device. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

For all the people I have known with a PC, it is rare to find anyone who HASN'T gotten a virus at least once. Very few.

The result of my very accurate, well researched study? OS's on smartphones are not at the same risk for malware, virus infection, or demon possessions. Is there a threat? Well, sure. Especially on Android. There is also a threat of me winning the lottery. And I play the same 6 numbers in the Mega-Million two times a week. But the odds just do not show that even a small portion of people who play the lottery get cash back. And the facts are very few Android devices get infected. Just doesn't happen much. Until someone shows otherwise, simple common sense will be just fine as a preventitive measure.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 05:50 2

5. putes (Posts: 38; Member since: 03 Nov 2011)


Look these companies are using the virus fear to promote sales just like finding WMD in Iraq. I guess they are trying to adjust and stay relevant in a post PC era. I installed an anti-virus checker and it found nothing after two years of heavy usage.
Since it is more likely that you'll lose your phone before getting hit with a virus these companies should be promoting their other features to generate sales such those mentioned like Antitheft, remote lock, backup, parental control, Web filter, etc.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 07:56

7. networkdood (Posts: 6267; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


I never heard nor seen malware on an Android phone......putes is correct - corporations are using fear to sell their mobile anti-malware apps. I am not saying malware does not exist, but, you can open the code of an APK in root explorer or on a PC to ensure it is malware free, if you are that worried.

Doublemypc.com.....now stuff like that you to worry about more than Malware on your Android device.

Now, for real issues on an OS, check out this link from 2 years ago:
http://www.appleiphoneschool.com/2009/07/30/iphone-sms-bug-released-today-leaves-all-iphones-vulnerable-to-attack/

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 11:49

15. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


Dood this is over 2 years old. Is that the best you can do?

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 08:52

12. remixfa (Posts: 13903; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


Android is more secure than iOS. You're just going to have to get over that, Miz.

things that make big headlines and things that are reality arent always the same. if you read the article, the guy basically says his antivirus software doesnt protect from much, and it doesnt need to.. its more of a "family filter" software.. lol.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 11:30

14. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


We have weekly malware articles about android not ios. Please don't bring up your tired quote about e hacking competition as you're misrepresenting facts as usual.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:24

21. remixfa (Posts: 13903; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


really? prove me wrong taco.
9 times out of 10 anything you say is a "fact" is wrong, and anything you say im wrong about, is infact.. a fact.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:27

23. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


Have already proven you wrong many times. I'm worn out dealing with the RVI

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 09:54

13. Hildy (Posts: 33; Member since: 23 Nov 2011)


As Google pointed out and a number of comments emphasized, viruses are for all practical intents and purposes non-existent on Android.

OTOH, there is malware - apps which will do bad things if you install them. And that is the key - if you install them.

If a security vendor would allow me to modify permissions for apps or even to block certain apps from accessing the network without having to root the phone, I'd consider it. But those that I've seen are about functions, as F-Secure admits, like antitheft, remote lock, backup, parental control, and web filter, many of which I don't need at all and others that I'd rather have a specific app for instead of a bloated suite.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 11:52

16. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


Last quarter the Android mobile operating system (OS) became the most “popular” platform for new malware. This quarter Android became the exclusive platform for all new mobile malware. The Symbian OS (for Nokia handsets) remains the platform with the all-time greatest number of malware, but Android is clearly today’s target. 

http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/21/8932272-mcafee-malware-loves-android

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 11:54

17. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


A recent study has found that Apple's iOS is still untouched by malware, whereas users who choose Google's Android platform are 76 percent more likely to encounter funky software, making it the most susceptible mobile operating system in the world

http://m.cnet.com/Article.rbml?nid=20096832&cid=latest&bid=233&webref=reviews.cnet.com/android-malware-up-76-percent-nonexistent-on-ios/8301-19512_7-20096832-233.html%3f

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:14

19. VZWuser76 (Posts: 1379; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


Weren't you the one calling for posters to be banned for trolling? How is this any different. Nowhere in the ARTICLE do they mention anything about iOS, yet here you are trying to start a flame war.

I guess I don't understand the double standard you have. If this were reversed, you'd be reporting people left and right. So what's the difference?

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:28

24. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


Did you miss networkdood post and remix post?

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 18:51

27. VZWuser76 (Posts: 1379; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


Funny, they were responding to Miz, who was the first one trolling. I said in my post that you were not the first to troll on this article, but you are the one who always calls for people to be banned, yet you do the same thing. So again, why the double standard?

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:20 1

20. VZWuser76 (Posts: 1379; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


Since you are fond of links, what about these:
http://forums.appleinsider.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=135477

http://betanews.com/2011/07/15/apple-patches-does-not-acknowledge-ios-malware-vulnerabilities/

http://technology.inc.com/2011/07/13/apple-says-it-will-fix-ios-malware-exploit/

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:39

26. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


No OS is 100% secure. Android is the least secure by a long shot though.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 11:58

18. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


Androids please don't pull the will over your own eyes. Open leads to less secure.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:26

22. remixfa (Posts: 13903; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


our will is fine. ifools, please pull the WOOL from your eyes.

and quit trolling taco.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 12:31

25. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


Not trolling. You guys deny the facts. I posted some for you. Android at this point is THE malware platform of the world. Open is good for some things, but not for security.

You guys should not deny this. Trolling PA will not keep you safe from viruses.

Combine this with the fact most android users are very fond of pirating software, music etc and the risk increases.

posted on 23 Nov 2011, 18:53

28. VZWuser76 (Posts: 1379; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


Yeah, and no iOS users have ever used p2p or torrents to get music & movies right?

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