It's been a big week for the Android phone platform. Most important, the Federal Communications Commission gave the all clear to the first Android-powered handset, which will be built by High Tech Computer and is currently expected to be called the Dream. Additionally, Google released an updated version of its SDK.This version of the SDK, version 0.9, Google says, is very close to what the final SDK will look like. While this is all good news for anyone who has yet to buy an iPhone and sign up for a lengthy AT&T contract, it also means that more security researchers, if they haven't already started, will begin hammering away for any existing security-related vulnerabilities. It's what they do, and in the long run, their work improves the quality of software.
Google knows this, and already is bracing for the storm. This is from an e-mail the Android Security Team posted to the popular Full Disclosure mailing list yesterday:
As you may expect, building and maintaining a secure mobile platform is a difficult task. The Android platform team has put a great deal of work into trying to design a platform that balances our goal of open development and user choice with the unique challenges of securing a consumer-focused mobile system. While we have found and fixed many of our own bugs as well as flaws in other open source projects, we realize that the discovery of additional security issues in a system this large and complex is inevitable. That is why we would like to introduce ourselves today and let the security research community know how they can reach out and work with us.
The note then went on to explain how Google would appreciate security researchers go about reporting their finds. Not surprisingly, the Google Android Security Team favors reasonable disclosure practices, which is to say researchers would contact Google with the flaws they find, give Google a chance to fix the flaw, and then the flaw and patch are announced the same day with kudos going to the security researchers who found the problem.
Responsible disclosure is the best way to go for everyone. Whenever security flaws are randomly dumped out publicly, users get attacked and vendors are forced to rush shoddy patches out the door. With responsible disclosure, the flaws get fixed, and we all have a chance to patch our systems.
And Google is taking the right approach here, to try to keep open lines of communication with the security research community. Let's hope this communication goes both ways.