Google Fighting Android Malware

Google is fixing Android phones rooted by Marketplace Malware Applications, but patching the security hole is going to be a bit more difficult.

As much as people may complain about Apple’s App Store’s closed platform, at least iPhone users don’t have to worry about malware applications.

On March 1st, news broke about how 21 popular free applications in the Android Marketplace were updated and re-released with root exploits. Meaning, these applications could burrow into your Android phone’s core and potentially do some real damage. As of today, Google has confirmed a total of 58 applications have been discovered, downloaded by a total of 260,000 devices.

To be fair, Google was able to respond extremely fast, removing the malicious applications within a few minutes of being alerted. However, having 260,000 infected phones is definitely no small matter.

While Google is able to remotely remove these applications and  fix these devices (with no action required from the user), the security hole that allowed these applications to gain root access is a hardware issue, not a software breach. This leaves the fix in the hands of phone retailers and consumers.

If Google doesn’t come up with a way to better screen new applications in the Android Marketplace, the Android platform is going to be in trouble. If consumers can’t trust new applications, it will hurt the entire Marketplace system. Users won’t download new apps, there will be much less incentive for lesser-known developers to build creative applications for the Android, and this open and creative platform might fall into a stasis. This would not be good for trying to compete with Apple’s App Store, nearing 400,000 active applications, versus the Android Marketplace, with just over 50,000.

The first Android phone, the HTC Dream, was released on October 22, 2008 (about two and a half years ago). Shouldn’t issues like this be worked out by now?

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