Paranoid Android: Openness hurts sometimes

Trojan malware not only affected some 260,000 Android users last month, it also highlighted the vulnerability of an open platform (which Wired covered in depth). The debacle has shed light on the implications of downloading apps from unknown sources. 

report from eWeek yesterday highlights the vulnerability of all smartphones to malware. While Android is perhaps the most susceptible, it is not the only one. Malware exists on all the major mobile platforms -- on BlackBerries, iPhones, and Windows Phone 7 devices -- although apps can only be retrieved from the built-in markets on RIM and Apple devices (WP7 is too new of territory to know in that regard).

The report goes through a number of steps to safeguard your smartphone against malware, but it can all be boiled down to one simple guideline: use common sense. Don't download apps from unknown, untrusted sources; don't download anything that sounds too good to be true; encrypt data when possible; don't store sensitive information on your device; etc.

Speaking of common sense, eWeek also notes that the reported Google lockdown on developers may benefit its competitors. 

"In effect Google, after failing at being different from Microsoft, is going to try and beat Microsoft at Microsoft’s own game," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in to eWeek. "That virtually never works, which will likely force them to get closer and closer to Apple’s model.

"Google’s value proposition was that they would be vastly easier to deal with than Microsoft and let the vendors better differentiate. They found that this led to a lot of crap being released on the market and they sucked at vendor collaboration. They are now rethinking that approach by being even more controlling."

Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, told eWeek that the new policy at Google reinforces the notion that there are quality issues with Android's app portfolio thanks to its lenient approval policies. The tighter restrictions will likely benefit Android in the long-term, though, possibly elevating the Android Market to the level of the App Store.

All eyes are now on Windows Phone 7, to see how it will fare when paired with Nokia's hardware and market reach, and whether it can differentiate itself from Android and iOS. Ramon Llamas, another IDC analyst, wrote that he believes WP7 will surpass both RIM and Apple to become the second-most popular smartphone OS in the world by 2015 (with Android holding on to its number one slot).

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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