by Constantine von Hoffman

Android’s Success Makes It a Malware Magnet

Nov 15, 20112 mins
MalwareMobile SecuritySecurity

Google's smartphone OS is now a much bigger security risk than Apple's iPhone

Google’s Android OS has become a malware magnet. Its dominance as a smartphone platform is turning it into a much bigger security risk compared to place Apple’s iPhone.


Since July there has been a 472 percent increase in spyware and viruses targeting Android, according to a report from Juniper Networks. The report says most of the threats come from apps downloaded from third-party sites which are not part of Google’s Android Market. Apple users don’t have the same problem because all apps must first be approved by the company and can only be downloaded from the company’s own store.

Google’s decision to let hardware makes use OS has helped it rapidly grow market share over Apple. In just the third quarter of this year Google’s mobile operating system was running on 60.5 million units sold, according to a report from Gartner. That’s for 52.5 percent of all smartphones sold in the three-month period. By comparison, iPhones sold 17.3 million units during that time. That gave it only a 15 percent market share

This is almost exactly the same thing that happened in the early days of the PC. Then Microsoft’s decision to license Windows came close to eliminating the Apple OS. And, just as with Android, Windows’ popularity made it the most popular destination for malware.

Android has also profited from the decision to allow third-parties to develop for it. Developers have quickly come up with a staggering number of apps. The growing number of apps to choose from has, in turn, helped bolster Android’s popularity. But it has come at a cost to users who have little hesitation about downloading apps from unreliable sources. It is easier to create malware for Android software because the applications aren’t checked, the source code is open and the apps can be sold on external sites.

Those sites may offer the apps for less money than on the official Google Market. On a third-party site, it’s possible to find an infected “Angry Birds” game uploaded right next to a legitimate one, Juniper spokeswoman Danielle Hamel told Bloomberg news.

All this poses significant problems for businesses as people regularly send company data to their personal smartphones.