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Google Claims Greater Security for Android Market



Maybe 2012 will be the Year of Online Security? There seems to be some talk about it these days and that is a good thing. We like to get excited talking about all the latest ways to communicate and the gadgets that enable that communication. We are all about getting the message across and finding out who did what and why online.

As marketers that is perfectly acceptable and good. It’s our job. An increasing part of that job, however, is the responsibility of ensuring the relative safety of our businesses in the online space. That seems to be more precarious than ever especially with the extensive movement into the mobile space.

One sore spot of that space has been the security of the Android platform. Google knows it and that’s why this post happened late last week which gives us a peek into this part of the online space.

The last year has been a phenomenal one for the Android ecosystem. Device activations grew 250% year-on-year, and the total number of app downloads from Android Market topped 11 billion. As the platform continues to grow, we’re focused on bringing you the best new features and innovations – including in security.

Adding a new layer to Android security

Today we’re revealing a service we’ve developed, codenamed Bouncer, which provides automated scanning of Android Market for potentially malicious software without disrupting the user experience of Android Market or requiring developers to go through an application approval process.

I am an Android user and I will be totally transparent here. I don’t trust it. By it, I mean the Android market. It seems as if anyone and their cousin fifty times removed can set up shop there. As a result, I only use apps from larger brands or ones used by someone I know and trust who can say (to the best of their knowledge) that the app is “safe”. I use quotes around the word safe because it can be unnerving to know just how much information or access to my system I am giving up for the use of that app. It’s almost to the point of using the “if I didn’t hear about it, it didn’t exist” method of feeling safe because, let’s be realistic, we hand over boatloads of data (we miss you Carol!) to developers and we are probably more immune to worrying about it than we think.

So Google knows it has to play catch up in this area since the image of the competition’s App Store is one that you could eat off the floor while dining with full waiter service and arrive home to your butler attended iOS palace. It’s not quite that regal in reality but compared to the Android market it’s still like night and day.

Google claims that Android malware downloads are decreasing but what else would they say? In the post they touch on some of the areas they have done work in to make the Android environment a cleaner one. Call it a neighborhood reclamation project if you will.

Android makes malware less potent

In addition to using new services to help prevent malware, we designed Android from the beginning to make mobile malware less disruptive. In the PC model, malware has more potential to misuse your information. We learned from this approach, designing Android for Internet-connected devices. Some of Android’s core security features are:

Sandboxing: The Android platform uses a technique called “sandboxing” to put virtual walls between applications and other software on the device. So, if you download a malicious application, it can’t access data on other parts of your phone and its potential harm is drastically limited.

Permissions: Android provides a permission system to help you understand the capabilities of the apps you install, and manage your own preferences. That way, if you see a game unnecessarily requests permission to send SMS, for example, you don’t need to install it.

Malware removal: Android is designed to prevent malware from modifying the platform or hiding from you, so it can be easily removed if your device is affected. Android Market also has the capability of remotely removing malware from your phone or tablet, if required.

While this all sounds well and good, Google is not working from a position of power on this one, at least not with me. I am going to exercise the same level of caution I always have (which usually means I look in the Amazon Android App Store before I go to the Android Market because at least from the start they vetted the apps there a bit more thoroughly than Google’s handshake and a wink methodology). Google doesn’t quite get that thing about first impressions much do they?

So what is your experience in the Android world? Do you play in both Android and and Apple environments and is there a marked difference? Let us know in the comments today, we would love to hear from you (and you don’t have to give us your location or bank account!).