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Android malware multiplying, thanks to market forces

  • 29 October 2012
  • Written by 
  • Published in Security

Trend Micro's latest security roundup report has identifed a fivefold increase in the number of high risk and dangerous Android apps, to 175,000 in September, as the bad guys respond to market trends.

Ron Clarkson, Trend Micro's vice president, mobility, told iTWire the dramatic increase was a direct result of the growing popularity of portable devices, at the expense of PCs.android malware

"The bad guys are businesses just like any other. They look at the market and what is growing and what is shrinking and they see that the Android user base is growing and the PC user base is shrinking."

He added that the surge in Android malware was in part due to the fact that iOS, thanks to Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem, is much less vulnerable, driving malware writers onto Android as PC users move to either iOS or Android.

"In the iOS world, unless you have jail broken your device the apps can come from only two places: the App Store - and there is only one worldwide - or the enterprise."

Clarkson, however, pointed out that the open nature of the Android ecosystem had created huge opportunities for creativity, but at the same time made it even more vulnerable.

"Google produces the operating system. Then they hand it over to the hardware provider, who changes it a bit, adding their own software, which introduces more vulnerability. Then the hand it over to the service provider who adds their software and creates even more vulnerabilities."

Compounding the problem is the fact that only 20 percent of Android users have any sort of antivirus software installed. And Clarkson does not see the situation changing to the point that, as with Windows, there will be widespread recognition of the need for antivirus software on Android devices, leading to almost universal installation.


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"The traditional method has been to charge for the [antivirus] software, but we are looking to move beyond that," Clarkson said.

"The entire supply chain is looking at how we can secure this eco system in a way that the business can support itself. In some markets users are willing to pay for antivirus, in others the just are not.

"We are looking at different ways to monetise our security software: at partnering with the telco service providers, the app store providers, at ad revenue."

Clarkson sees service providers as ultimately being the key players. "More and more security is going to have to come from service providers, especially for consumers. As an industry we have to move beyond this devices specific approach. The device is quickly becoming commoditised and it is all about the ecosystem.

"The service providers are going to have to figure out how to secure their networks, to put security in the cloud rather than on the device. It gives them the opportunity to differentiate themselves and say 'our network is safe'."

Furthermore, he predicts that pursuit of device security will be pursuit of a moving target. "Within two to three years there will be some new OS that will take the market by storm."

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