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Did Sundar Pichai really say that Android was not designed to be safe?

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Did Sundar Pichai really say that Android was not designed to be safe?
If you've been watching the news today, you probably saw some headlines concerning some answers that Sundar Pichai gave at Mobile World Congress this week. We covered the story earlier, because Pichai confirmed that a Nexus 6 will be on the way in the second half of the year, and talked a bit about Samsung as well. However, some are reporting that Pichai said that Android was not designed to be safe, which you might think is a bigger headline, assuming that's really what he said. 

Here's the full quote from Pichai:

We cannot guarantee that Android is designed to be safe, the format was designed to give more freedom. When people talk about 90% of malware for Android, they must of course take into account the fact that it is the most popular operating system in the world. If I had a company dedicated to malware, I would also be addressing my attacks on Android...

Sensationalism?


When we reported the story earlier, the section of the quote that we focused on was the second part where Pichai said that because Android is the "most used operating system in the world", it makes sense that malware attacks would be focused on Android. That's what we reported because that was the story. But, some are focusing on the first part of that quote, and we think they are sensationalizing the quote a bit. 

Many are paraphrasing Pichai as saying that Android is not designed to be safe, it is designed to be open. We can't help wonder if that reading of what he said is taking the words, not the meaning. It seems that Pichai is merely stating that Google can't guarantee that Android is safe, just like any company can't 100% guarantee something like that. Google has often pointed out the various ways that it is working to keep Android users safe, including various forms of malware scanning both in the Google Play Store and on devices with the Verify Apps service. Google has said that because of this combination, less than .001% of malware actually gets a chance to attempt an attack. And, a new report is saying that Verify Apps will soon offer continuous background monitoring. 

The existence of the Verify Apps service does point to one of those "open" features that Google prides itself on with Android: sideloading apps. The Verify Apps service is mostly there to scan sideloaded apps, because Google already has similar features in the Google Play Store to catch malware before users download and install it. This alone would suggest that the headlines have been sensationalized, because this key feature gives control to users, and when you give control to users on something as fundamental as installing an app, you can never guarantee the safety of a platform. Google can do all it wants to protect users, but no one can be protected from themselves.

Or a warning?


But, what if what Pichai said is exactly what others are portraying? Maybe Pichai meant exactly what he said: Android itself isn't designed to be safe... but Google Play services is, so you'd best be using an Android device with Google Play services if you want to be safe. We may never really know the answer to that, but it is an interesting question. 

There have been consistent rumors that one of the reasons that Larry Page chose to make Sundar Pichai the head of Android and replace Andy Rubin is because Pichai is much more forceful and able to make deals that others can't. Part of that skill is in how you present yourself and your product. Since Pichai took over, there has been a much bigger push of Google services. Google Play services has been updated quite frequently with a ton of features; Google Apps have continually taken over stock Android apps (like the G+ Photos app and the Google Now Launcher); and, Google has set up new rules to enforce faster software updates by manufacturers and newer software at launch. 

That last one is especially interesting. It is rumored that there is a new requirement in order to qualify for Google Mobile Services (Google Play and Google Apps), which states that a new device has to launch with a certain level of Android. For example, as of April 24th a new device has to launch with Android 4.3 in order to qualify, and as of July 31st, a new device will have to launch with Android 4.4. This is a great way to get devices on the market that start out with the newest Android software possible, but it could also backfire and lead to more devices launching without Google services. 

And, there are the forks to consider as well. Amazon is the biggest in the U.S., Xiaomi runs a fork of Android that is very successful in China, and of course Nokia recently announced its own fork of Android that trades in Google services for Microsoft cloud services. None of those devices have Google Play services, so wouldn't it be a pretty interesting move if Pichai is actually taking aim at those forks with this comment? If Android isn't designed to be safe, those forks of Android are inherently less safe than a device with Google Play services. 

Conclusion


That would be a very risky way to play it, especially since Pichai didn't make that distinction, which makes it sound as though Android as a whole is less than safe. But, Pichai has been working to put Google at the forefront as well as to make Google Play services a much more valuable set of features than just access to Google Apps and the Google Play Store. We'll have to wait and see if there are any more interesting quotes like this. 

Of course, maybe the quote is being misrepresented all around the web. There are quite a lot of assumptions to be made in order to arrive at the second way of reading Pichai's quote, so Occan's Razor would say that it is much more likely that tech blogs want to drive more traffic. What do you guys think? Is it sensationalism or is Pichai taking aim at non-Google Androids?

73 Comments
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posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:41 9

1. Neo_Huang (Posts: 327; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)


Only interested in Android 4.5.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:51 15

6. akki20892 (Posts: 3295; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


I'm interested in Android 4.5.2.4.6.7.4.2.1.1.1.1.0

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:03

44. arenanew (Posts: 140; Member since: 30 Dec 2013)


who this idiot he is salesmen of underwear . i think he ameture people openly said , i think forked verrsion is more safe than goole

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 22:25 13

54. SuperMaoriBro (Posts: 264; Member since: 23 Jun 2012)


Wtf did this guy say? Can someone please translate

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 22:55 3

56. bugsbunny00 (Posts: 917; Member since: 07 Jun 2013)


who tf you talking about sis? a guy in underwear..and what tf is goole?

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 23:37 2

58. Ashoaib (Posts: 1256; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


F*ck this guy... I like andriod experience better then ios...

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:45 2

2. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1175; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


EDIT: I take it back m

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:50 1

5. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1175; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


I don't, really, but I didn't want to start a war.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:51 5

7. akki20892 (Posts: 3295; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


How sweet of you.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:52 1

8. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1175; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


Tonight.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:56 1

29. Commentator (Posts: 2324; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)


We are young.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 21:35 1

53. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7621; Member since: 14 May 2012)


So let's set the world on fire.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 22:50 5

55. akki20892 (Posts: 3295; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


This is Sony zone dude.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:49 9

3. UglyFrank (Posts: 362; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)


You are twisting his words

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:49 11

4. Dastrix (Posts: 574; Member since: 23 Nov 2012)


Infected as always... Nothing new here.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:01 19

13. WHoyton1 (Posts: 1619; Member since: 21 Feb 2013)


Grow up...I would chose freedom over the tiny miniscule risk of malware any day...go back to your closed WP

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:04 21

14. papss (unregistered)


I find it ironic that you said for him to grow up and then act like a child in the same sentence

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:08 16

17. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7621; Member since: 14 May 2012)


This site has completely ignored all forms of education this past week. Sad to say the least..

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 00:12

60. Bernoulli (Posts: 1436; Member since: 01 Sep 2012)


Besides, ask 14 year old kids what phone they'd get and also ask an adult, a kid interested in games would pick android, an adult would pick the things that are worth the most, like preserving a memory or working on the go.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:20 3

18. elitewolverine (Posts: 1292; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


closed wp? you mean how no one here knows what a google less android experience really is? And the whole, if you want to be safe don't install non google play store...

i don't need my phone of all things to be 'stupid' open, i have a 12in touch tablet for those occasions...imo that is.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:17 4

35. tedkord (Posts: 4436; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


We do know. Kindle, Nook, Cowon...

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:40 4

24. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 1668; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


You must love being Scroogeled , haha here's some Vaseline

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:30 1

49. rodneyej1 (Posts: 3488; Member since: 06 Jul 2013)


Closed, and safe?

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:35 2

51. eharris560 (Posts: 59; Member since: 28 Dec 2012)


Freedom to do what exactly. Customize the way your phone boots up, change the looks of icons, change the rom, remove some bloat ware, and side load some apps. Yeah all of those things are more important than the security of my information and money.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:44 3

52. PBXtech (Posts: 969; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)


I've done all that and never had a problem. Sounds like you're sensationalizing it a bit too much.

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 00:42

62. bon24x7 (Posts: 203; Member since: 30 Aug 2012)


How do you know there's no problem? Such things remain hidden until its found. If you never had a problem it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You can never be sure unless you're really good at coding and has enough time to go through all the source codes.:-/

posted on 02 Mar 2014, 22:28

73. slyhounddog (Posts: 16; Member since: 28 Jun 2013)


If you don't like your keyboard, change it. If you don't like how your icons look, change it. If you don't like how your phone looks, acts, or performs, change it. That's the power of android. On apple, all those things already look, act, and perform well and as they should so there is no need to change it. On android at least you have the choice. On apple you don't need one. That's the power of the consumer. And fan boys like you really just like to watch the world burn don't you?

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 00:14 1

61. Bernoulli (Posts: 1436; Member since: 01 Sep 2012)


Tiny risk of malware? Please, besides that lag free any day over stupid games, what a kid

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:01 11

30. Commentator (Posts: 2324; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)


I mean, I've used Android for nearly four years now, and I've never been infected by malware, but whatever...

I suppose my lag-free Nexus 5 is also super laggy too? Man, where would I be without you telling me what my experiences have been like? Thanks, Dastrix!

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:08 3

32. networkdood (Posts: 6260; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


lol, Nexys 5 is so lag free - but, so was my Droid RAZR.....I get what the guy is saying as the platform is open, but you, meaning people, just need to use some common sense, which, you know how that goes....

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:43 1

38. elitewolverine (Posts: 1292; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


Because urs is not laggy doesn't mean that it is not a problem nor that their experience is less valid than yours. I have never had a virus since 98, my browsing history is not 'clean'. That doesn't mean that windows doesn't have virus.

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 16:04

71. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 1668; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


ROTFL @"lag-free"

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:53 3

9. DigitalJedi_X2 (banned) (Posts: 346; Member since: 30 Jan 2012)


Thank you Michael! I may not always agree with the writers here on PA, but you are definitely the exception. Vwry well thought out and worded. Kind of reminds me of me back when I covered tech for a few blogs and sites many moons ago.

As for your question... I think he was taking aim at non- GMS Android devices. Especially in light of this Nokia X that has M$ fans so excited. He truthfully cannot guarentee the saftey of such a device. I think he was also letting people know that, essentially, when you're on top, everyone is going to be gunning for you. Competitors and never-do-wells alike. Look at M$. King of the hill in terms of desktop operating systems. The most users by far. And also the most malware. More target users for hackers to steal information from. So i think he had a bit of a double entendre there.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:54 2

11. apple4never (Posts: 931; Member since: 08 May 2013)


dude did you rip of darkkjedi's username??

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:35 2

22. TheLolGuy (Posts: 483; Member since: 05 Mar 2013)


What, darkkjedi is the only one who is allowed to like the Jedi? Wow.

Your thought process sounds just like King wanting to trademark something so generic and general as 'candy'.

And your name also already speaks volumes about you. If I were you I'd best stop commenting to avoid further embarassment.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:35 2

23. DigitalJedi_X2 (banned) (Posts: 346; Member since: 30 Jan 2012)


Dude! Do you even have a brain?? If you did, you would realize that more than one person can have Jedi in their name without stealing it from someone else. So ridiculous.

I've had this username on many sites for many years now. Twitter, Phonedog and various Android only sites.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:52

27. donfem (Posts: 520; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


Which explains why shapes of phones can be reasons for lawsuits?

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:05

31. TheLolGuy (Posts: 483; Member since: 05 Mar 2013)


Why even attack him with that logic? He didn't even mention Apple yet you're trying to attack him with that even though he didn't even bring that company up.

It looks like you just look for any excuse to express your hatred for a company that doesn't care about your opinion because it had no truly meaningful reflection behind it before it was made.

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 05:43

65. apple4never (Posts: 931; Member since: 08 May 2013)


if you had a brain you'd realize it was a joke

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 08:56 1

67. DigitalJedi_X2 (banned) (Posts: 346; Member since: 30 Jan 2012)


And if you had even half a brain, you'd realize the joke was nowhere near funny.

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 14:16

70. apple4never (Posts: 931; Member since: 08 May 2013)


half a brain is better than not a single brain cell

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:05 1

16. pookiewood (Posts: 562; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)


I haven't seen many MS fans excited for the Nokia X, XL, X+ or DMX myself included.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:53 3

10. apple4never (Posts: 931; Member since: 08 May 2013)


LOL grab your pop corn \***/ \***/ \***/ fanboy wars in 3.....2.....1

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:31 1

50. rodneyej1 (Posts: 3488; Member since: 06 Jul 2013)


We're all stupid nerds here... Don't you mean nerd boy wars??.... Get it right next time.. Lol!!!!!

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 16:58 5

12. sprockkets (Posts: 1146; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)


Listen, it goes like this: If you allow people to sideload anything, they'll side load malware. That's it. They allow you, with warnings, to do this. Apple and MS won't.

Who is right? No one really. Pick your platform accordingly.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:23

20. elitewolverine (Posts: 1292; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


This is true, until you get the people that don't know what they are doing, then call into their mobile carrier support and freak out when we tell them, you shouldn't have done that.

And is probably why the 521 and other apple products became so popular with non-sideloading tech savy people. Some people don't care about that freedom.

Some people think a real android is with only google services. The list goes on. In the end freedom like you states comes with risk. It is the same risk that PC's fight everyday. But do i really need this on my phone?

Taskmanagers (how many are in the store), file cleaners (how many are in the store), Antivirus (how many are in the store), etc etc.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:22 2

47. PBXtech (Posts: 969; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)


http://www.phonearena.com/news/Beware-a-security-hole-in-non-jailbroken-iOS-devices-allows-apps-to-keylog-you_id53122

Less than a week from being posted and people have totally forgotten. It's not just a side loading issue, any OS can get malware or viruses.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:04 6

15. timepilot84 (Posts: 63; Member since: 16 Aug 2012)


Android is unsafe, the way that every home computer ever created is unsafe. It allows you to be a grown up and make your own decisions about what software you run and who you trust to not screw you over. Thanks, Google!

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:09 1

33. networkdood (Posts: 6260; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


yup, if people complain about Android, an open platform, then what about Microsoft....lol...I guess people love being scroogled....

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:21 2

19. jpkelly05 (Posts: 38; Member since: 13 Nov 2012)


Wow. I think I remember reading about this same type of stuff back when it was Windows 98 or XP and Apple OS and Linux on desktops; pre-smartphone era. Android is safe and if you really are worried about it that much... don't have technology and don't have camera's in your house that are connected to the internet in anyway. They are watching you [fill in the blank for who ever you think they are]. And note, if they are watching you... who cares... if they watched me, I hope they saw my junk and cringed a lot and thought to themselves- this was a bad idea. Anyways, IMHO this crap is un-needed BS Drama just like terrorism (except the small fact that Malware never killed anyone). {BUT they are still both BS}

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:25 1

21. elitewolverine (Posts: 1292; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


Yes but the difference is that pc's can handle back end apps far easier than droid can.

Yes it is choice, yes it is the same argument, but in the end it is one worth noting, especially when everyone and their mother wants to use their droid as a work device and expect all this built in security (i handle these calls daily).

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:17 2

34. jpkelly05 (Posts: 38; Member since: 13 Nov 2012)


Gave you a thumbs up because you are correct... it is worth noting, but there is no reason to use it as a tear down tool against any OS. They all have their faults. Pick the best one for you, stop making jabs at other OS's. Profit. Be happy. And for the love of Buddha- or is it Ala today (I have to look at the calendar)... oh its Yoda, my bad... learn how to do a backup/restore if you are going to use your device as a work device!

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:48

39. elitewolverine (Posts: 1292; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


Love getting yelled at that I don't have their pictures and photos saved for all their work related things. I gave you a thumbs up as well.

it is worth noting if the question comes up when buying a phone, I never had malware on my droids but I see about two calls a day that do. In the end it is what it is.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:41

25. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 1668; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


,,,,,.. Meh.. Nothing new... Android was just a test OS, that got outta control, no pun intended......

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:55 3

28. joey_sfb (Posts: 2704; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


Even Nokia which own all the market share of WP is throwing an Android party no wonder their fans are butt hurt and out to get pay back.

Hey! its Nokia that turn their back on WP nothing to do with Google. I have use Microsoft, Apple and Google products. So far, the least problem is Google, they do take better care of their users.

Some day some other company would lead and I will leave Google. I join the winning party only.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:24 5

36. tedkord (Posts: 4436; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


Funny how that "test OS" became the most popular mobile OS in the world. Now quick, make rationalizations.

posted on 28 Feb 2014, 16:05

72. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 1668; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


Most popular? Or most affordable ?.... That's right :)

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 17:48 2

26. Taters (Posts: 2648; Member since: 28 Jan 2013)


Poor article. The only thing he is saying is that there is nothing safe and that it is normal for people to try and crack Android because it is one of the most used Operating systems. Same thing applies to windows.

For example, a master mechanic can break into any car quite easily unless it has a satellite watching it and a guy staring at the satellite computer 24 7. Does that mean none of cars are safe? No not at all, they are safe enough despite there being a small population that can break into our car anytime they want.

Just because a hacker can possibly crack Android it doesn't mean they will because if they really wanted to crack any OS they could if they tried hard enough. That is all he is saying and phone arena journalists should know better than this crap....

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 18:42

37. tttony (Posts: 27; Member since: 22 Jul 2012)


I think he was referring to Play Store is not safe:

tweaktown.com/news/35583/malicious-apps-in-google-​play-store-increased-almost-400-percent/index.html

Google does nothing to be a safe place for apps, just care the money that makes with the ads

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 20:25 2

48. PBXtech (Posts: 969; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)


http://www.phonearena.com/news/Next-Google-Play-services-update-will-allow-Verify-Apps-to-monitor-for-malware-in-the-background_id53296

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