It seems like every few weeks another story surfaces that some aggressive, possibly sentient virus or trojan is attacking Android handsets at will. Run for the hills everyone! Microsoft has worked pretty hard to get people to talk about “Android Malware Horror Stories” on Twitter in order to be entered into a drawing for a Windows 8 phone. Microsoft is claiming that there are more nefarious pieces of malware for Android than for other any platform, which is undoubtedly true. But they are also claiming that their OS is safer, because it is so unpopular. Hey, does anyone remember these guys?
Yes, the famous Mac vs PC commercials. Despite my loathing for all things Apple, these are some of the better TV ads that have run in the last decade. They are memorable, funny, and just misleading enough to draw in naive, ill-informed PC users. One of the many points that Apple wanted to make with these ads was that Windows was just dangerous. There are so many more viruses for PC than for Mac and that’s why only a Mac is safe to use. But what Apple failed to mention is that there were just as many viruses per Mac, as their were per PC. It’s a simple matter of chance. If you want to write a malicious piece of software you write it for the most popular OS so that you have the best chance of infecting said computers. So all Apple was really admitting in these commercials was that they have a small market share among desktops and laptops. When Microsoft, with no sense of irony claims that Android is dangerous because there are more viruses for it than any other OS, they are really just admitting that no one is buying their phones. Right now the mobile OS market share looks something like this:
But Microsoft isn’t the only company that is loudly warning against the dangers of malware on Android devices. Security companies are constantly coming out with new studies claiming that whatever percent of Android phones ARE INFECTED RIGHT NOW! Essentially they are telling us that the call is coming from inside the house, and it might already be too late. We had all better go pay for whatever that company is selling us on the Play or Amazon app stores before a crook steals our identity and steals everything we love away from us. It is important to remember that no one has a more vested interest in your fear than the companies that sell you security software. That is not to say that some of the studies that come out don’t make some important points about staying safe when you are interacting with a device that stores sensitive information, but pay attention to who is crying wolf before you dash towards any security company with an open wallet.
Android is an open source operation system. That is where its beauty, its flexibility, its ability to easily be customized, and its stability come from. But just because something is open source doesn’t mean it isn’t secure. The important thing to keep in mind is that no matter what device you are using (be it handset, desktop, tablet or laptop) you should always use common sense. Don’t install programs or apps from developers you don’t know and trust, stick close to home (i.e. the Play or Amazon app stores) if you don’t know much about how Android works, and always pay attention to what you are doing and why. The reason that malware on any platform is successful is usually because ill-informed users pass malware along without realizing it. So, as in most situations in life; knowledge is power. Learn about how something works and there is less of a chance that it will hurt you. You didn’t know you were going to get life changing advice today did you?