Friday, November 25, 2011

Is your iOS or Android device at risk from virus attacks and malware? - Part 2

Part 1 of this article is here.

The primary source of Android Apps is Google Android Market. By default most Android devices can only download apps from the Android Market. However, the settings allow you to download apps from different sources, like Amazons App Store for Android or directly from the publishers of an App, or even to install apps from the SD card. 

Android Market. Google does not pre-screen apps uploaded to the Android Market, so it is not too difficult to upload an app with malicious content. Instead of pre-screening apps, Google relies on its kill switch. If a malicious app is detected, Google removes it from the Android market, and if necessary wipe it from Android devices remotely. Yup, they can erase malicious apps on your Android device. Any security holes will likely be fixed by a patch.

Google has activated the kill switch to remove over 100 apps from users phones and has removed more from the market. With over 500,000 apps released during the life of Android, 100+ apps is not a very large number. Again, go to your favorite Android Forum and try to find the thread of users complaining about security. 
I think pre-screening should be done. In the absence of pre-screening, I would recommend not downloading new apps unless they are from reputable developers. Wait a few weeks before downloading apps from lesser known developers and even than, if no one else has been downloading it, or there is no user feedback, wait a bit longer. 

Other sources. The Amazon App Store for Android does pre-screen apps, so it is probably the safest place to download apps from. As for third party developers, you will have to evaluate if these developers are reputable.

Google maintains an open system. The price of more freedom is a little more responsibility. I do not use a virus or malware scanner on my Android. If you don't download new apps from unknown developers as soon as they are released and only download apps from reputable third parties, there is no need for a virus or malware scanner.

In the end? In the end, no system is completely secure. Given the data we store on mobile devices and the transactions we do on them, a little prudence is needed. I think iOS offers a bit more security, on the front end. Once something malicious gets through it is harder to fix. Android, well they have the kill switch to wipe out anything that gets through.

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