Feeds

Google guru blasts Android virus doomsayers as 'charlatans'

Says iOS perfectly safe from security 'scammers', too

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.