Feeds

Google guru blasts Android virus doomsayers as 'charlatans'

Says iOS perfectly safe from security 'scammers', too

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Google's open-source program manager has launched an entertaining rant against firms offering mobile security software, accusing them of selling worthless software and of being "charlatans and scammers".

Chris DiBona, Google's open-source programs manager, argues that neither smartphones based on Google's Android nor Apple's iOS need anti-virus protection. Anyone telling you different is a snake-oil salesman, he said.

"Virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you BS protection software for Android, RIM, and, iOS," DiBona said on Google+. "They are charlatans and scammers. If you work for a company selling virus protection for Android, RIM or iOS, you should be ashamed of yourself."

He argues that smartphones are inherently more secure than PCs, while admitting mobile malware is not mythical but rather that it has rarely if ever caused much of a problem.

"No major cell phone has a 'virus' problem in the traditional sense that Windows and some Mac machines have seen," he said. "There have been some little things, but they haven't gotten very far due to the user sandboxing models and the nature of the underlying kernels."

"No Linux desktop has a real virus problem," he added.

It seems a report from Juniper Networks last week noting "exponential growth" in Android malware, blamed on the looser controls in the Android Market than those applied by Apple, provoked the Google guru's splenetic outburst. DiBona doesn't call out any of the mobile security charlatans he castigates so strongly by name but there's no shortage of candidates.

Many anti-virus firms have branched out into offering security software for Android, including commercial products from Kaspersky Lab, F-Secure and Symantec. Lookout Mobile and AVG's DroidSecurity offer basic protection software at no charge to consumers. Some security firms, Lookout and Intego, offer more basic security packages for iOS but without bundled anti-virus protection, which is not supported by iOS. Windows Mobile anti-malware is covered by the likes of F-Secure and others. Hardened Blackberry devices exist but we've never come across a firm offering BlackBerry security software as a stand-alone product as yet. Viruses targeting BlackBerry remain unknown.

Security firms said DiBona has misunderstood both the threat and the capabilities of their products. Kaspersky Lab said that cybercrooks are migrating towards Android as the platform increases in popularity. the main problem is Trojans, malicious applications that pose as something useful to a smartphone user, rather than virus. Kaspersky reckons one Trojan - DroidDream - has already infected infected 100,000 users.

Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure's chief research officer, tweeted, "What @cdibona [Chris DiBona] is missing is that these tools do much more than just antivirus: Antitheft. Remote lock. Backup. Parental control. Web filter."

Talk of exponential malware growth is justified but needs to be put into context, that the huge rise is coming from a base of almost nothing and that the raw figures remain trivial compared to the Windows virus plague. Specialist mobile security firm Lookout, for example, estimates mobile malware instances have more than doubled to nearly 1,000 over the last four months alone. Windows malware estimates routinely exceed 5 million and above. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
That dreaded syncing feeling: Will Microsoft EVER fix OneDrive?
Microsoft's long history of broken Windows sync
Mozilla, EFF, Cisco back free-as-in-FREE-BEER SSL cert authority
Let’s Encrypt to give HTTPS-everywhere a boost in 2015
SLURP! Flick your TONGUE around our LOLLIPOP – Google
Android 5 is coming – IF you're lucky enough to have the right gadget
Nokia's N1 fondleslab's HIDDEN BRILLIANCE: The 'Z Launcher'
Sugarcoating Android's Lollipop makes tab easier to swallow
Bug fixes! Get your APPLE BUG FIXES! iOS and OS X updates right here!
Yosemite fixes Wi-Fi hiccup, older iOS devices get performance boost
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
Meet Windows 10's new UI for OneDrive – also known as File Explorer
New preview build continues Redmond's retreat to the desktop
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.