Google announced that it has taken several new steps to keep Android users out of harm's way with regards to malicious applications. The announcement came a few days after a few such apps were discovered in the market.
Google says the apps in question were removed "within minutes" after discovery, but they would have allowed the attackers to access other data. Not good.
Google lists the following four steps:
- We removed the malicious applications from Android Market, suspended the associated developer accounts, and contacted law enforcement about the attack.
- We are remotely removing the malicious applications from affected devices. Thisremote application removal feature is one of many security controls the Android team can use to help protect users from malicious applications.
- We are pushing an Android Market security update to all affected devices that undoes the exploits to prevent the attacker(s) from accessing any more information from affected devices. If your device has been affected, you will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org over the next 72 hours. You will also receive a notification on your device that “Android Market Security Tool March 2011” has been installed. You may also receive notification(s) on your device that an application has been removed. You are not required to take any action from there; the update will automatically undo the exploit. Within 24 hours of the exploit being undone, you will receive a second email.
- We are adding a number of measures to help prevent additional malicious applications using similar exploits from being distributed through Android Market and are working with our partners to provide the fix for the underlying security issues.
Security firm Symantec told CIOL that attacks aimed at Android users look to steal info, download malicious code, or send text messages to premium numbers. "Some of the information that malware on Android devices have been observed to compromise include the phone’s coordinates based on GPS, the phone’s unique IMEI number, administrative rights and screen shots of the phone," Abhijit Limaye, Director, Development at Symantec is quoted as saying. "Some malicious code can also silently pull additional malware into the phone as a background service, or hook the device on to a mobile botnet. Malware that steals data from the Android device is also a possibility – with many of us using phones for banking or social networking, these details are valuable for attackers."
Apple's app approval process has drawn plenty of criticism over the years, but this is certainly one area where it may appear more attractive to users.