Rahul Thadani

5 reasons why your Android Smartphone needs security

April 6, 2012
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android, says that there are nearly 850,000 new Android devices activated on a daily basis since February 2012. Since its inception in 2007, Android has grown at a phenomenal rate and has inched closer to toppling the massive ecosystem that Apple founder, Steve Jobs initiated. At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress, Google highlighted a year on year growth of 250% giving out an estimate of 300 million for the total number of Android devices present worldwide.

Amidst all the fanfare and acclaim that this Linux based OS has garnered over the years, Android users are gradually waking up to unprecedented attacks by malicious software, adware, scareware, trojans and other potent forms of viruses that can severely cripple a handheld device. The simplest justification for these attacks being the fact that the greater the number of devices in circulation, the higher will be the potent threats actively working to harm the device. These threats will present themselves in many forms and variations leaving it to the user of the device to ensure that such threats are rendered harmless with the help of the right tools.

For anyone who is still wondering if security tools and programs are necessary for Android users, the investment is worthwhile and should not be deliberated upon twice. It is simply fair to assume that since there are so many devices being sold on a daily basis, sooner or later an even potent threat will emerge on this platform. Today, the Android Market (or the Google Play Store) showcases around 450,000 applications for download and a majority of these apps are not put through the stringent security measures and testing procedures that Apple mandatorily carries out. As a result, a user can end up downloading a malicious app that could transmit valuable data to a remote system, or access confidential information carried by another app or even send out spam text messages to everyone on the contact list of the device. Here are the 5 major reasons why properly securing your Android device is necessary:-

  1. BYOD threats
    Enterprises are debating about the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) issue today, as employees increasingly demand that they be allowed to use their own Smartphones and tablets at the workplace. While this is convenient and raises employee morale, the real danger of confidential information getting leaked out cannot be ignored. An employee using his personal Android device to exchange work related mails and to deal with other valuable data, is a perpetual risk to the company as the device could fall into wrong hands, or simply be destroyed. To protect an Android device against such risks, proper security measures on the device are absolutely essential.
  2. Open source software
    The very nature of Android as an operating system is something that works against it as far as security is concerned. As part of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), Google provides the Software Development Kit (SDK) and the Native Development Kit (NDK) to one and all to make sure that the end users get a real world product without any compatibility issues. While this is Android’s biggest strength, it is also ironically, its biggest weakness. Since there are no copyright infringements involved, anyone is free to adapt the development kits, modify them and distribute them. In short, this is a malware developer’s dream.
  3. Failure to read permissions
    A major feather in the cap of Android, vis-a-vis Apple, is the fact that the user can actually view the permissions that an application is asking for before downloading and installing the application itself. These permissions range from modifying or deleting SD card contents, sending SMS and MMS messages to gaining Internet access over the data connection of the device and gathering information about the users location using the GPS signal. But the problem with this is that most users do not read these permissions carefully and base their judgments solely on the user comments that are posted along with the application. There is always a possibility that these comments are fraudulent where the ignorance of users can prove extremely harmful to their devices and the valuable information that it holds. Possessing sound security measures in the device can warn the user of the presence of a dangerous application even before it is installed.
  4. Third party applications
    In spite of there being a large number of games and applications available in the Android Market, people often resort to downloading applications from a third party source. This is something that is strictly prohibited by Apple, but Android in all its open sourced resplendence, allows this feature to exist. Needless to say, this multiplies the risk exposure of an Android device to any application that can be installed on the device with the permission of the user and infect it. A trustworthy security measure will ensure that all downloads of third party applications go through a proper screening and effective filtering process.
  5. Human errors
    One of the major reasons why you need security on your handheld devices, something that is not restricted to Android devices, is the mobility of these devices. Unlike a desktop, which you cannot carry around in your pocket, a Smartphone or a tablet can be easily misplaced, damaged or stolen at any point in time. This could lead to a loss of valuable data or even worse, it could lead to the data falling into the wrong hands. Security features like a screen lock, a remote lock, remote wiping of data and automatic erasing of data amongst others, are features that can prove useful to one and all. Some people also end up clicking on links and opening misleading attachments that attack and infect their device. A structured security program can negate the effects of such threats.

Some may argue that since Android is based on the Linux architecture, security threats cannot be highly potent for this medium. Additionally, it is also true that Android restricts an application from accessing the information possessed by other apps on the device, so the chances of a malicious app stealing data from all the resources of the device are minimal. Moreover, when an application is being downloaded from the Market, it asks for the user’s permission to access certain resources. This is a useful way of filtering out suspicious applications. For instance, if a game asks for permission to scan your text messages, you can simply choose not to download this particular application.

Even though such measures are in place, we cannot discount the possibility of a virus attack on an Android device. So the best course of action to take would be to simply ensure that the device is protected by a proactive security suite and by regularly updating it. With adequate foresight, you can easily thwart any malicious threats that may arise and ensure that your Android device works smoothly and effortlessly.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Rahul Thadani
About Rahul Thadani
Rahul is a web enthusiast and blogger, and has been writing about the computer security industry for the last three years. Following the latest technology trends,...
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