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Google Android Gingerbread prevalence poses security risk to firms

06 Mar 2013
Android plush toy

Fragmentation in the Google Android mobile ecosystem is leaving businesses at risk to cyber attacks, according to security firms Trend Micro and F-Secure.

Google revealed that its two year old Gingerbread operating system is still the most common version of Android on its Developer Forum on Wednesday.

The figures show that Gingerbread is still running on 44.2 percent of all Android smartphones, marking a small decrease on the 45.6 percent share listed at the end of 2012.

Below it Ice Cream Sandwich was the second most common version, running on 28.6 percent of all Android handsets.

Adoption of Google's latest Jelly Bean version remained slow, growing a meagre three percent, meaning it now runs on 16.5 percent of all Android smartphones and tablets.Android Jelly Bean is on 16.5 percent of devices

Trend Micro security director Rik Ferguson told V3 that the ongoing fragmentation and slow update cycle could have disastrous implications for businesses using Android devices.

"The fragmented nature of the Android operating system version installed base is certainly a problem, although more so for enterprises than for individual end-users currently," Ferguson told V3.

"For enterprises there is much management functionality and many security enhancements that are only present in later versions of Android OS, so if they are trying to enable a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture, they may want to insist on a certain level of operating system before a device can be allowed access to corporate resources.

"Earlier version of Android are also inherently less secure from a functionality perspective - missing encryption or ASLR for example - and also from a vulnerability perspective, containing many vulnerabilities that may never be fixed but the handset vendor."

F-Secure analyst Sean Sullivan added that the use of an old version of Android is also dangerous as it could leave users vulnerable to mobile malware.

"From a broader crimeware perspective, the longevity of older versions of Android provides a possibility for commoditised Android malware to develop," Sullivan told V3.

"It is also interesting to consider that the stats only reflect phones that have visited Google Play. So that doesn't include numerous devices from China, where Google Play is blocked. Update support in that market is likely to be even worse, and that provides a breeding ground for new mal-code."

The news follows widespread reports of a boom in the number of cyber attacks targeting the Android ecosystem.

Trend Micro recently predicted the number of threats targeting the Android mobile operating system will pass the one million mark by the end of 2013.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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