Standing Up for Mobile Security

Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 12:46 PM


I recently read an article about Chris DiBona, the Google Open Source Program Manager, unleashing a complete rant about the lack of a need for an Anti-Virus program for Android and iOS.  The Manager went as far as calling companies pushing this technology “Charlatans and Scammers”.

Finally!  I am ecstatic that someone more reputable and with more clout than I is finally speaking up. I am in 100% agreement with his comments. Of course, I would have used different names than Charlatans and Scammers, but his point is completely valid.

Have you ever noticed that most of the “the sky is falling” and “you better buy an Anti-Virus program from your smart phone” messaging is coming from the companies that stand to make money by your purchase? Talk about creating your own supply and demand chain.

Let me start by sharing a quote from a very well known virus company.

Quote: “It's also worth noting that "viruses" don't exist on the Android to date”.

So wait, you are willing to take my money and market fear and urgency to me for a threat that does not “yet” exist? I don’t know if I really get a warm fuzzy feeling about this.

Let me be very clear, I am not saying “there are no threats to data loss or privacy on mobile devices”. I agree that there are many “malicious” or “shady” applications found on the Google Market, and even in ITunes that will steal your information, spy on you, incur data or voice charges, etc. But calling these applications “viruses” is a serious misnomer and is just a ploy by the “Scammers and Charlatans” to get your money.

These rogue/shady application do not “infect” your device, these applications don’t “magically” appear on your phone by opening an infected attachment or visiting a malicious website. These applications only get on your device by “you” the owner of the device selecting to download and install them. If a user does not choose to download and install these apps they will never get on their phone.

This takes me back to a blog post I wrote 8 months ago. The point of the post was that mobile devices need an Application Manager and controls, much more than they will ever need a Virus Scanner. I encourage you to take a look at it.

I submit that there are 3 really easy things you can do to make sure you don’t ever install a “bad app”

  1. Read the reviews of the app you are about to install. Use common sense if there are only a few reviews of the app or if it seems questionable or shady, it’s likely that it is. There is no one requiring you to be the Guinea Pig to try out the new app on the market. Wait a couple days for some reviews and feedback. Google and Apple are working hard to pull apps off their markets and if it really is legit it will stand the test of time.
  2. Don’t get apps from shady places. I know, it is fun to have the random app that no one else has. I know you may feel that it makes you more desirable to the opposite sex if you have downloaded the “crazy cutting edge app” from a random 3rd party site or market. But the truth is, it’s just not worth it. Most of the bad apps come from non-reputable sites and markets. Just stick with mainstream and you are likely to be safer.
  3. Get a good application manager that can identify bad apps, and control the installation and use of applications. The truth is that this technology is still emerging and you may have to wait a little while before you can really get a good solution for this. I know that ContentWatch is releasing a good solution for this very soon, and I suggest checking the site regularly for updates on this technology.

My suggestion is don’t run out and drop money on an AV solution that is really just taking up space on your SD card and sucking your battery life, wait for a real solution that really protects what you need protected. In the meantime hang onto your money and just avoid installing the random “see hot videos app” that was posted online by a random developer from Taiwan 5 minutes ago and you will probably be OK.

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.