Android Security Will Be Big News in 2011: 10 Reasons Why

By: Don Reisinger

Google's Android platform has caught some heat from security companies as a result of the discovery that a significant number of applications in its Android Market harbored malware. It's likely that Android security will continue to make headlines in 2011.

Android security is back in the headlines. Google has removed more than 50 applications from its Android Market after it was revealed that the programs were laced with malware. The malware, according to security experts, is able to pull sensitive information from a user's smartphone.

Even worse, it was downloaded as many as 200,000 times, according to security researchers, which could create a major problem in the Android space. Worst of all, this might just be the tip of the iceberg.

But before some folks simply scoff at the news and say that it's just more of the same mobile problems that have been going on for months without any noticeable issue breaking out, it's important to consider the ramifications of this latest outbreak. The sheer number of downloads should be enough to scare some people. It could cause malicious hackers to turn more of their attention toward the Android Market to take advantage of a fertile new ground to spread malware.

Right now, it seems that Android security will be a huge continuing story in 2011.

Read on to find out why:

1. Android devices keep getting more popular

One of the key reasons Android security problems will continue to linger for the foreseeable future is the popularity of those smartphones. Android-based devices continue to outpace sales of iOS-, BlackBerry OS- and Windows Phone 7-based devices. Cyber-criminals are realizing that and acting accordingly.
Like Windows, which became a big target for malware creators, Android could become an inviting target for malicious hackers.

2. The malware is there

If malware wasn't present in the Android Market, discussions over Google's mobile security wouldn't even crop up. But it is present. At this point, there's no telling how many other programs are in the marketplace that might have some malware in them. If more malware-laced apps crop up, the concerns surrounding Android security will only intensify.

3. The security companies are watching closely

Several security firms, including Symantec, Kaspersky and Lookout, are keenly aware of the security issues that are impacting Android. Admittedly, there's a good reason for that: They have a financial interest in protecting consumers. Going forward, expect many more security firms to take a closer look into Android security and cause many more headlines.

4. Hackers are seeing the revenue potential

Malware is created for one simple reason: money. Cyber-criminals target the operating systems that they believe they can capitalize on the most.
Naturally, that means the operating systems that have the most users.
Considering the mobile market is a bit of a new frontier for cyber-criminals and with millions of Android customers around the globe, there is money to be made by targeting unsuspecting victims. Expect more Android threats to pop up in the coming months and years as financial interests play an increasingly important role in mobile security.

5. The solutions aren't there

For now, it's hard to find a simple way to stay safe from mobile threats.
Sure, there are mobile applications designed to protect smartphones, like Kaspersky's Mobile Security 9 suite, and there haven't been many widespread outbreaks just yet. But the mobile-security market is a ticking time bomb.
As this most recent malware scare has proved, keeping smartphone users safe is an uphill battle, to say the least.

6. The issues keep coming

It's also important to note that Android malware scares aren't slowing down.
Proof-of-concepts started cropping up with increased frequency last year.
Stories on the platform's security continued to sweep across the Web over the past several months, with security experts chiming in on Android's potential issues. Now scores of potential threats have emerged. The mobile concerns are continuing to intensify. As long as that continues, Android security will take center stage in the mobile market.

7. The malware is being downloaded

If the most recent spate of malware breakouts were just a proof-of-concept, few would care. After all, theoretical malware issues have been shown off before. They rarely amount to anything. But Google's decision to remove over 50 apps from the Android Market is much different. Malware-laced applications were downloaded to user smartphones. That means malware is on these devices and in the wild. This means that the problems and the damage can increase very quickly.

8. The Android Market is growing

It seems that at least so far, cyber-criminals have opted to target Android handset owners through the Android Market. But the problem is Google can't be expected to vet all the apps that flood into its store on a daily basis.
The Android Market is exploding as more and more developers realize that the Google operating system will likely become the broadly dominant force in mobile software. It would only make sense that some malicious files would make their way into that marketplace because of that. The challenge now is to find the bad stuff amid all the good surrounding it.

9. It's still new

Windows security problems are something that consumers and enterprise customers around the globe deal with on a daily basis. They are very much aware of the problems that exist on Windows, and they've accepted them as part of their lives. But mobile-security problems are relatively new. The average mobile device user isn't as informed about them as he or she could be. As more mobile issues crop up this year, expect Android security to continue to be a big story.

10. Google's focus

Google made a rather interesting acquisition on March 1: It bought a German security firm called Zynamics. For now, the company hasn't said much about what its plans are for Zynamics. But it's quite possible that it will use the firm's expertise to improve Android security. If nothing else, Google's Zynamics acquisition seems to show that the company is serious about security. If it keeps focused on that, it might not be long before it finds itself one step ahead of malicious hackers, rather than one step behind as it seems to be right now.


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