Researchers Claim Android Fragmentation Leaves Users Vulnerable to Attacks
February 8, 2013 8:37 AM
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Fragmentation may need users wondering who should be patching their Android devices
has been a significant problem for Android smartphone users, smartphone makers, and developers for a long time. Hardware capabilities of Android devices vary widely and not all smartphone manufacturers are willing to give older smartphones upgrades to the latest versions of Android OS (hoping instead that customers will simply buy a new smartphone).
Security researchers are now saying that the rampant fragmentation in the Android market could leave users vulnerable to attacks. According to the researchers, one of the major problems is that it remains unclear who is responsible for patching the Android operating system on smartphones on the market.
The question is should Google, the smartphone maker, or the wireless carrier be offering fixes for security issues. Google often moves quickly to patch security problems, but carriers and smartphone makers that use a customized operating system may drag their feet or simply not offer the fix at all.
This fact, according to security experts, means that the Android operating system leaves users more vulnerable to hackers, scam artists, and malware than competing operating systems.
“You have potentially millions of Androids making their way into the work space, accessing confidential documents,” said Christopher Soghoian, a former Federal Trade Commission technology expert who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s like a really dry forest, and it’s just waiting for a match.”
The researchers say that if a major malware outbreak for Android devices surfaces, the system for updating smartphones using Android could dramatically slow efforts to protect information carried on the devices.
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RE: apple not fragmented????
2/8/2013 11:55:19 AM
Apple is also not fragmented in the same way that Android is. All iPhones use Apples software from the ground up. On Android you may have 100 phones that use the same kernel, but then everything else from the bundled packages, to the UI can be from the phone manufacturer, or even your carrier. Personally I have my dobuts about the ability for HTC or Verizon to be able to write secure code for their devices. Even Sammy, who is a bit better than the rest, is probably not as good at writing software as Google is.
On top of that fragmentation, when there are updates then they go out to specific phones. You phone may get it 'quickly' meaning 2-3 months, or someone may drag their feet and you will get it a year out, or you may not get it at all. These updates often patch issues, and so not getting these patches can leave you open to attack.
So yes, apple does have 'fragmentation', but you are talking about 2 flavors of the OS, and the current OS runs on all 'current' devices that could possibly still be under contract or warranty. That is not the kind of fragmentation that causes concern. The release of products which already come with an outdated version of the OS, bundled with a UI from one company, and a buggy integrated software bundle from another company, and the inability to get 'up to date' software in a timely fashion is what causes concern.
When it comes down to it Google needs to take a bit more control over the platform and implement some form of unification at least on the revision level where everyone running v4 can get at least low level updates that plug holes without worry about it affecting the software packages of other vendors. But then again Google is popular because they are very loose with control, and the price is not bad either. I am not sure that Android would have the same level of popularity among manufacturers if they were to lock things down. I know that WP isnt exactly the most manufacturer friendly company out there (and certainly no Android replacement), but they do offer much less fragmentation, and they also provide a fair amount of Apple Lawsuit protection as well.
"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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