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Android malware has always been a topic of importance for end users, but the problem only seems to be getting worse, not better. A report released this week by Juniper Networks found that Android malware has risen 472 percent since July. That’s an incredible rate of increase over just a few months, but not entirely surprising, given Google’s sly mention of reaching the 200 million mark for activated Android devices worldwide, doubling since May. The growing popularity of Android handsets has prompted an entire industry’s interest in consumer protection, as mobile security companies clamor to get ahead of the Android malware trend.
Google to blame for malware rise?
Juniper’s report goes on to say that Google is the main cause for malware trouble, as the Android Market’s review process leaves the doors wide open for malicious apps. Google does well to remove apps that are discovered to be malicious, but Android malware is getting smarter. We’re seeing apps capable of gaining root access to an Android device, allowing them to install more software and get deeper access to consumer data, or wreak havoc on a device. It’s a vicious cycle that’s thrown consumers into the heart of the battle, sparking debate over how Android malware should be handled.
Harry Sverdlove, CTO for Massachusetts-based security firm Bit9, says there’s too many cooks in the Android kitchen. Unlike Apple, which maintains control over its iOS, device and marketplace, the responsibility of security software updates is spread across Google, carriers and OEMs. “This is a flawed distribution model,” Sverdlove says. “I don’t think people realize how chaotic this ecosystem is.”
Antivirus apps vs. consumers
It seems security software makers are thriving on the chaos, however, leaving some to wonder if it’s worth the extra download for a security app. Google’s open-source programs manager, Chris DiBona, lashed out after reading a report on Android’s “inherent” insecurity of open-source software, arguing that Android users don’t need antivirus software at all.
“Virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you BS protection software for Android, RIM, and, iOS,” DiBona said on Google+. “They are charlatans and scammers. If you work for a company selling virus protection for Android, RIM or iOS, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
DiBona didn’t name any specific companies, but there are plenty out there, some looking to transfer the success of their PC security days to the mobile realm. In the end, it’s still up to consumers to educate themselves to a large extent, and monitor the activity of their devices.