Google fails to protect its mobile platform

The discovery of viruses in apps on Google’s Android Market is troubling. I like the fact that Android is open, and that you can easily install an APK (Android Package) from any source onto your device if you want to. That said, it is reasonable to expect that apps downloaded from the official Android Market will be virus-free, or at least that some attempt has been made to check them for malware.

Another problem which is apparently rampant in the Android market – and also to some extent in Apple’s app store – is app stealing, where someone takes an existing app, copies and re-uploads on their own account. In most cases it seems that the malware was on apps pirated in this manner.

Note that while it took Google less than five minutes to pull the malicious apps from the store, the original developer had apparently been trying for more than a week to get them pulled on copyright violation grounds.

Google takes 30% transaction fee for apps sold in the market. Enough, you would think, to check for malware.

Most seriously for the Android market, the situation for users is that apps on Android Market might be malware, whereas apps on Apple’s App Store are not. That is a big advantage for Apple, and one that you would have thought Google would want to counter.

The only winners here are the anti-virus companies, who will be delighted to inflict their subscriptions on mobile users just as they have on Windows desktops.

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