Android Security – A Growing Concern

Malware, viruses, backdoors, rootkits, botnets – these are terms we would have heard with regard to Windows related malware. Moreover if you do happen to ask a Windows user about the importance of installing an Antivirus he/she will place it as the most important software to have installed. But if you take Smartphone’s in general the importance of security is close to negligible. Malware targeting the Android OS is rampant but there is always a catch to this.

Why is the Android OS vulnerable?

First and foremost, when it comes to patching vulnerabilities distributors of the OS haven’t been quick enough in developing OTA (Over the Air) updates. Take any brand for instance – Samsung, HTC, Sony or LG; there has always been a lag in pushing the required updates to their respective devices. Having said that, slow isn’t quite the defining word as all manufacturers stop providing updates once they move on to newer models or Smartphone’s; leaving users high and dry for all necessary updates. While this might not come as a surprise to many, only 9% of Android users have their updated to v4.2.3 and v4.3, leaving a staggering 91% of users vulnerable. Now, that’s a large number of users left in the dark with multiple vulnerabilities.

The second aspect to look into are the custom Android ROMs that come with performance tweaks. Developers put in a lot of time and effort in bringing out the latest to both new and old phones. This is more like a god sent platform for users who scream for nothing less than performance. Plus users who have stopped receiving OTA updates have the freedom to swap in one of these custom OSs. However, with these come a number of fake OSs that are rigged with spyware, especially when they are downloaded from torrent sites. Statically speaking, at least 6% of users end up installing a rigged OS.

Free apps are the most sought after within the Google Play store. They are also the most targeted when it comes to infecting legitimate software. Google’s Android application environment has been numerously targeted Google has always been quick at fixing malware related issues. Plus there are a number of users who prefer downloading apps from third-party sites and this is the root of most malware related issues. Sites other than Google Play do not provide the necessary security when it comes to checking applications thus allowing them to do just about anything with the user’s personal data.

The most important defense system of Google lies in its Application Permission Notifier which basically provides a brief description of the permissions the app would require to function properly. The issue here is that, no one reads these permissions before installing. Having said that, a basic user will find it difficult to understand the importance or be able to differentiate between right or wrong when it comes to app permission.

How to stay safe

Well, it all comes down to choosing the right product. There are tons of apps on Google Play. As a user you only need what you require and not everything that gets posted. Second, while people might shout out loud to not have a security suite installed, it is better to be safe than sorry. Choosing the right anti-malware product goes a long way when it comes to securing your Smartphone. Read reviews to be sure that the product you are downloading is worth every penny in terms malware protection as there are many security products that are made just to consume space and memory.

And always remember the rule of the thumb – only download apps via Google’s Play Store. That way you lessen the chances of getting infected. Plus you have Google backing you up in case you end up downloading malicious software as they are quick to have the app remotely removed. Lastly, always check App Permission before installing.

For those who are interested in installing custom OS builds, avoid downloading them from torrents sites at all costs. Try downloading them from sites such as XDA-Developers.com as they are constantly monitored and updated as and when required.

NOTE: Installing custom ROMs voids warranty and can even brick your phone beyond repair.