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Time for an open discussion about Android

08 Nov 2012

It's five years since Google first lifted the curtain on its Android mobile operating system.

Since then, it's taken the world by storm – and if the market analysts are to be believed, its presence in the enterprise is set to become even more pronounced in the coming five years. But not everyone will count this as a blessing.

For many IT chiefs, the emergence of a credible alternative to Apple's iPhone has been a life-saver. The fact that there are so many different Android smartphones available at all manner of price points, on numerous networks and tariffs has paved the way for the ostensibly consumer devices to swarm in to the enterprise. And it's avoided the eye-watering cost of having to offer to pay for employees' iPhone.

And as far anyone can tell at this stage, it looks as if a similar story will play out on the tablet front. This week, Gartner and IDC have made bold predictions about the shape of the mobile market, essentially predicting Android will win out.

But unless Google can do something about its lamentable security record, the Android avalanche is going to cause nothing but pain for IT.

The problem for Google – the rather-less-open-curator-of-Android-than-it-would-have-you-believe – is that it's the operating system's biggest selling points that are its biggest weakness.

Some users love the idea of being able to hack away at their handsets, install whatever applications they see fit, from wherever they choose to do so.

But that open philosophy also allows attackers a window of opportunity. And when looking at the numbers, the acceleration of Android malware is truly breath taking.

Speaking to V3 earlier, F-Secure security chief Mikko Hypponen said his firm had seen around 3,000 new Android-related malware samples in the first quarter of 2012. By the third quarter, it was detecting 51,000.

Now much of the malware seen to date has been pretty low-level stuff. It's irksome to find some toe-rag has made your phone dial lots of premium-rate numbers, and for smaller firms the costs could potentially be high. But it's a far cry from having crooks spy on company secrets, or seeing hard-won customer trust evaporate as thieves pilfer credit card records.

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