Vulnerabilities / Threats
6/23/2010
03:19 PM
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Google Finds Flaws In Android Security Report

SMobile Systems' suggestion that two-thirds of Android apps are 'suspicious' fails to consider Android's security mechanisms, Google says.

The security of Android apps was called into question by a report issued on Tuesday by SMobile Systems, an Ohio-based mobile security company.

The survey of over 48,000 apps in the Android Market notes that "one in every five applications request permissions to access private or sensitive information that an attacker could use for malicious purposes."

It further states that one in twenty Android apps have the potential to place unauthorized calls. "One out of every twenty applications has the ability to place a call to any number without interaction or authority from the user," the report says.

Google says the report has problems. "This report falsely suggests that Android users don't have control over which apps access their data," a company spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "Not only must each Android app gets users' permission to access sensitive information, but developers must also go through billing background checks to confirm their real identities, and we will disable any apps that are found to be malicious."

By highlighting the theoretical risk of Android apps, SMobile Systems runs the risk of being seen rainmaking -- trying to generate security business through fear -- rather than informing the community.

Consider the following statement from the report: "More frighteningly, 29 applications were found to request the exact same permissions as applications that are known to be spyware and have been categorized and detected as such by SMobile's solution."

The report says nothing about whether those applications are actually spyware. Nor does it address the fact that Google users are prompted to review the permissions of the apps they download and can flag problems for review by security experts.

John Hering, CEO of smartphone security company Lookout, said in a phone interview that there are problems with raising the alarm about the use of certain APIs. "Just because an app accesses an API does not mean that it's malicious," he said.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

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