Over the past couple of months I’ve been following the situation with Android and the increasing problem of malware appearing on phones with Google’s operating system installed.
Malware is “software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner’s informed consent”, this includes viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware – something we see often on desktop PCs but rarely on mobile phones.
Unlike Apple, the Android app store doesn’t have a approval/vetting process, meaning that any old hacker can submit a app with malicious intent and not only that, they can also copy and resubmit popular apps like Angry Birds with their code in.
Then it happened – last week Google announced that they found 58 Android apps loaded with malware, built with the intention of gathering device-specific information. The amount of devices affected? 260,000.
Google sorted the problem by removing the apps Android Market and pushing the ‘Kill Switch’ which allows them to remotely remove mobile apps without the users consent (a talking point within itself).
I tweeted a few times on Monday about what this could mean for consumer confidence. We all saw what happened to Apple with ‘Antennagate‘ , it blew up big time and even though it was a non-issue, it still affected purchase decisions and the way people perceived the device.
I spoke to one friend nearly 6 months after it happened when she was due a upgrade, when I suggested trying a iPhone 4 she said “I’ll wait until the next one when they sort the aerial out”.
She’s not going to go online and read a review on Techcrunch or search forums to find out that actually the phone works fine. The damage has been done.
Aaaand then yesterday the Metro, a popular free daily newspaper with over 3.5 million readers, published the Android story on the front page turning a tech/geek story into a mainstream fear fest. You can read the full article here.
You can just see where this is all heading, a couple more stories like this, one high profile celeb gets their Android phone hacked, then suddenly every operator will be selling you a £5 per month ‘McAffee Android Security Centre” when you buy a Google phone. Suckering fearful consumers.
We’ve already got articles like this ‘5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Android Phone from Malware‘. Jesus.
Remember it’s not just a high-end, expensive phones we are talking about, Android is built for a huge range of devices, anything from £80 handsets to £500 tablets. Meaning that news like this affects a larger consumer base.
I’ve got the feeling that compared to Antennagate this could be a huge consumer perception problem for Google, partly because you know this is just the start.
So will people care? Do consumer make the connection between Android, Google and the handsets made by HTC, Samsung etc? Or will this be forgotten?
One things for sure – Anti-virus companies are licking their lips.