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Free Android antivirus clocks up 2.5m downloads

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Update Downloads of a free anti-virus app for Android devices reached the 2.5 million milestone last week.

DroidSecurity's ad-supported antivirus free app has become among the 50 most popular downloads on the Android marketplace despite a paucity of malware threats that affect the platform. The first SMS Trojan for Android only appeared on Tuesday and was limited to just a few victims in Russia.

Dror Shalev, CTO and co-founder of DroidSecurity, told El Reg that its cloud-based product included just 200 signatures, mostly addressing spyware and phishing threats. The technology also offers anti-text message spam filtering capabilities.

Strong demand for its software is been driven by Windows users bringing their security concerns over onto a new platform rather than inherent risks, it would seem. The vast majority (99 per cent) of antivirus free customers are running Android devices that are not rooted, allowing users to install applications or services of their choice outside the set menu offered by operator.

iPhone users often jailbreak their phones to run applications outside of those approved by Apple. Rooting an Android, a similar process to jailbreaking for the iPhone, is far less common in the Android handset market and not necessary if a user simply wants to run third-party apps.

A run of iPhone worms only capable of infecting jail-broken iPhones appeared last year. However, Shalev doesn't expect to see this problem repeated with Android because the rooting process on Droid-running handsets, for example, does not involve opening the SSH backdoor with a default password exploited by the Doh worm. Instead, further SMS Trojans and spyware are the main threat for Android users to consider, according to Shalev.

DroidSecurity makes its money from selling ads on its free products and a premium ad-free version, which is recruiting around 2,000 additional customers a month. For June 2010 (the most recent figures available), DroidSecurity reports more than 500,000 fresh downloads of its free antivirus app.

The Israeli start-up wants to develop a corporate version of the software with centralised management features. The firm, which has been developing Android security software for two years, is hoping the more widespread availability of Android in a greater range of devices - including notebooks and appliances as well as smartphones - will help power its growth.

It is not interested in developing security software for other mobile platforms. "We're betting on the platform," Shalev said. "Android will replace Windows."

Symantec and F-Secure have already released Android security software packages, with Kaspersky due to enter the fray next year. Shalev was unconcerned about this increased competition from more established rivals. "They're doing a good job but we know the mobile world better," he told El Reg. ®

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