Smartphones optimize

Google deletes malware-infected Android apps from users' phones

Google has remotely erased malware-infected applications from users' phones. Jack Wallen thinks this latest attack is a clear sign that Google needs to shore up the application submission process for the Android platform.

DroidDream was the latest malware attack on the Android platform. The malware pulled the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers from the infected phones. After those numbers were discovered, the app downloaded a rootkit, giving the attacker complete control of the device. Google pushed the Android Market Security Tool March 2011 application to all infected phones.

This is a critical issue because an attacker could gain access to a user's contact information and cripple your phone, which could be a major issue if you're in an emergency. Also, if you have malware on your phone, your number could be spoofed or hijacked and cause your bill to be 10 times what it should be.

What is the bigger issue: the malware-infected applications or the "kill switch" Google obviously has in place for the Android platform? From my perspective, it's the malware-infected applications. As much as I dislike the Apple mobile platform, I think the company is handling the development process the right way. Apple's application vetting process is so strict because the company cannot afford to allow malware of this nature onto its mobile devices.

I am a big fan of Android; the flexibility it offers is far and above any other mobile platform. But Google needs to act fast before users lose confidence in the Android platform. If Google would take more of a hard line approach to accepting apps in the Android Market, it might frustrate some developers, but the primary focus should be on the applications' security and the end user's data and experience.

For now, I recommend that you use discretion when downloading and installing Android applications.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

9 comments
ereal_2000
ereal_2000

After reading this and other articles about Google Android and Apple IOS I am gearing more towards Apple. It would be simple if Google just setup a vetting process for the apps before they go to market. It is so simple. Maybe another year or two Google will get their act together. Sure you can be open but at least provide something to prevent apps with malware. I just won't be able to trust the Android market until Google has a process to weed out these type of apps.

Stalemate
Stalemate

The reality that the Windows platforms are subject to the highest number of attacks (malware, spyware, virus, etc.) must be why they're constantly losing market share. ...oh wait. It isn't. It still holds close to 90% of the workstation OS market share (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems) Despite the drawback of having to use my own common sense instead of relying on someone else's interpretation of what is "safe and acceptable" for me or not, I'd rather have a smartphone where my choices are more open-minded and allow me, the end user and purchaser, to decide. A trusted vendor list or some review process (preferably by peers) would certainly help, but it will not stop me nor others in preferring the Android platform to those of the competition. The iPhone has also had malware issues in the past (especially if jailbroken)*, and I don't see the sales being affected today because of it. Caveat emptor. * http://www.internetnews.com/security/article.php/3721016/First-iPhone-Malware-Found.htm * http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/11/truly-malicious-iphone-malware-now-out-in-the-wild.ars * http://ca.gizmodo.com/322843/iphone-malware-demo-freaking-me-out-man

Bolaris
Bolaris

I guess this is where android starts to lose grip. I've never had an android and now I probably never will, well not anytime soon. Like the saying goes, the bad news spreads quicker than the good, so sloppy management by google has now become it's downfall. This is exactly the reason why apple is so strict. As a consumer now knowing that "malware" which is a cancer on pc's has spread to a particular os I will steer clear and go secure with others.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

Truthfully, on something as mission critical as my cell phone, I wouldn't want malware to show up on it. Many people may balk about the review process that Apple and Microsoft have in place, but, in truth, an app review process is the best thing in the defense against malware in regards to cell phones. Android doesn't cut it when it comes to the app review process. Everything I hear about Android makes me think less and less of the platform.

QAonCall
QAonCall

This is the next step for Google/Apple. a Vendor rating (ala EBay seller rating/buyer rating). This begins the trust model. I trust you, you trust me, by extension you can trust my trusts.

Justin James
Justin James

"For now, I recommend that you use discretion when downloading and installing Android applications." This is normally good advice, but in this case, it's impossible! How is someone supposed to know when something in the Android Marketplace is malware or not? Apparently, these guys are cloning popular apps, slapping a fresh coat of paint on 'em, and adding the malware. There is NOTHING that the average (or even extremely experienced) user can do about this! This is yet another reason why I've abandoned Android. A year ago I was singing its praises as my Motorola Devour astounded me with its functionality. Now, I am so grateful that I'm left the Android ecosystem behind. J.Ja

derick.cook
derick.cook

I think you guys are bit premature on bringing down your verdict. Personally, I think it's a bit of scare mongering going on. I agree with the author that Google has to act quickly and get in some vetting processes into their market place. But I wouldn't abandon the ship just because a little rust has been detected. I'd fix the rust then put in place mitigating measures to keep the ship ship shape and afloat. ...as It's a damn fine ship. Cheers, DJC

Justin James
Justin James

From my comment: "This is yet another reason why I've abandoned Android. A year ago I was singing its praises as my Motorola Devour astounded me with its functionality. Now, I am so grateful that I'm left the Android ecosystem behind." I spent a year living with Android, it was miserable. I had two different Android phones, and both were literally as reliable as Windows 3.1. I was seriously considering dumping my smartphone altogether. I am currently using WP7, and I like it a lot. Most of the things I didn't like about Android are not issues on WP7. It has annoyances of its own too (the on-screen keyboard in particular... I liked the way Android handled adding spaces between words but removing them when I followed with punctuation), but so far, they aren't show stoppers like the problems I had with Android. The malware in the marketplace scenario is a perfect example of the kinds of problems Android has. It's openness is its biggest advantage and its biggest problem. J.Ja

Bolaris
Bolaris

For the record, the power of choosing what to do the instant you chose to do it is what puts pressure on such manufacturers to do better. "bringing down a verdict" is what protects the masses, it allows free will and allows one to switch to something secure when in need. Don't get me wrong the opinions on here aren't etched in stone as you may think, they are sporadic as Melbourne weather. But as soon as a consumer sees android steer for the better more will chose again to jump onboard. Yesterday android today apple tomorrow android again, it's liberating to abandon ship for another. Don't just be stubborn and go down with what may be a sinking ship...