Android security threats surge with infected ‘Angry Birds’; iPhone and iPad users unaffected

“In the era of the personal computer, Apple Inc.’s machines were often less vulnerable to security threats than the alternatives. That may also be the case with the rise of smartphones,” Bloomberg reports.

“Google Inc.’s Android operating system for mobile devices has had an almost sixfold increase in threats such as spyware and viruses since July, according to Juniper Networks Inc.,” Bloomberg reports. “‘You’re not going to see nearly the number of infections on Apple as you see on Android,’ said Dan Hoffman, who leads a team tracking mobile threats for Sunnyvale, California-based Juniper, the second-largest maker of networking equipment.”

Bloomberg reports, “Apple doesn’t face the same issue because iPhone and iPad owners can only get applications from Apple’s App Store, which is controlled by the company. ‘The open nature of the Android system makes it more susceptible to attack,” Hoffman said in an interview. “If it’s on a third-party site, Google can’t remove it.'”

“Making malware is easier with Android software because the applications aren’t checked, the source code is open and the apps can be sold on external sites, Hoffman said,” Bloomberg reports. “Hoffman said the 472 percent jump in application viruses since July stems from Android users’ ability to buy apps online at third-party sites… Android users may be drawn to the sites to find cheaper versions of programs, or because the Android Market isn’t available in some places, such as China. On a third-party site, it’s possible to find an infected “Angry Birds” game uploaded right next to a legitimate one, said Danielle Hamel, a Juniper spokeswoman.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Google’s quixotic quest to become the next Microsoft continues unabated.

And smart developers know that their best customers aren’t those who are “drawn to the sites to find cheaper versions of programs” or who got their smartphone via Buy One Get One Free promotions.

Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed.’ We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches. The first thing most of us think about when we heard the word ‘open’ is Windows, which is available on a variety of devices. Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, Android is very fragmented. Many Android OEMs including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user is left to figure it all out.

Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same. Twitter client, TwitterDeck, recently launched their app for Android. They reported that they had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations presents developers with a daunting challenge. Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago. Compare this with iPhone, where there are two versions of the software, the current and the most recent predecessor to test against.

In addition to Google’s own app marketplace, Amazon, Verizon, and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android. So, there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid.

This is going to be a mess for both users and developers.

Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store which offers users the easiest to use, largest App Store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone. Apple’s App Store has over three times as many apps as Google’s marketplace and offers developers one-stop shopping to get their apps to market easily and to get paid swiftly.

You know, even if Google were right and the real issue is ‘closed’ versus ‘open,’ it is worthwhile to remember that ‘open’ systems don’t always win. Take Microsoft’s ‘PlaysForSure’ music strategy which used the PC model, which Android uses as well, of separating the software components from the hardware components. Even Microsoft finally abandoned this ‘open’ strategy in favor of copying Apple’s integrated approach with their Zune player; unfortunately leaving with OEMs empty-handed in the process. Goolge flirted with this integrated approach with their Nexus One phone.

In reality, we think the ‘open’ vs. ‘closed’ argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue which is: What’s best for the customer? Fragmented versus integrated. We think Android is very, very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day. And, as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value in having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator.

We think this is a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s. When selling to users who want their devices to just work, we believe integrated will trump fragmented every time. And we also think our developers can be more innovative if they can target a singular platform, rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into innovative new features, rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets. So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as ‘closed,’ and we are confident that it’ll triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as ‘open.’Steve Jobs, October 18, 2010

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Dan K.” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

19 Comments

  1. The most vocal advocates of the Android platform are the One Percenters who accept the fact that technology, in its rawest form is complicated, and not for mere mortals. The other 99-percent are screaming at their phones.

  2. I haven’t downloaded Angry Birds, have never played it, haven’t seen a screenshot even, don’t know the game play. The only exposure to the game I’ve got is from the recent Apple keynote. I don’t know if I’m a minority here on this.

  3. This is why Apple works the way it does. You can say closed system, and whatever but they do it to protect there customers. Not to inhibit them. Letting people do what they want invites trouble with a capital T! So, have your freedom and you’ll have crap infested applications that will crash, steal your data, make your systems run slow, or not at all or worse.
    I’ll take Apple’s way any day over getting all my systems infected and making them useless!

    1. Ha! Funny!

      Also…
      “In the era of the personal computer, Apple Inc.’s machines were often less vulnerable to security threats than the alternatives”

      I think I need to look up the definition of often…or they do.

  4. “And smart developers know that their best customers aren’t those who are ‘drawn to the sites to find cheaper versions of programs'”

    That’s a good point, MDN. I’d add to that it’s so much easier to just go to *one* app store, and pay the $.99 or even $2.99 to get the real, guaranteed uninfected app. I’d also add that it’s good when those (few) stories come out where some app on Apple’s store was removed for collecting user data, because that means that Apple is awake and paying attention.

  5. From the article..
    ‘He said open-source operating systems for personal computers were more vulnerable than Microsoft Windows….’
    Jeez…I knew it was bad on Android – but ‘worse’ than Windows?

      1. Would you like to provide some links for your fact?

        Meanwhile, on Linux malware:

        “The number of malicious programs — including viruses, Trojans, and other threats — specifically written for Linux has been on the increase in recent years and more than doubled during 2005 from 422 to 863.”

        For the wonderful list, please see the link below. Etc.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_malware

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