Despite Apple's stringent nature with regards to putting up new apps on their store, their rigorous approach has meant that the apps available are, for the most part, safe to download. Google's Android Market gives developers less hoops to jump through, but that has increased the number of malware apps that are available to download from the store.
Trading security for accessibility may have meant less hoops for developers to jump through, which in turn means more apps are made available and more choice for users, yet the susceptibility of infection still looms large when the app in question is from a small developer
Now, Google Android have announced a new service developed to combat this problem. Codenamed Bouncer, the service provides an automated scanning of the Android Market for potentially malicious software which doesn't require developers to go through an application process.
Announcing it on their Mobile Blog, once an application is uploaded, the service immediately analyses it for known malware, spyware and trojans. If the system finds anything that indicates that an app is not all that it seems to be, it analyses the data against previously analysed apps to determine whether it's malware or not.
Android's Vice President of Engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer said in his post that the percentage of device applications increased by 250% year-on-year and that the total number of apps downloaded from their market place went over 11 billion. The biggest announcement was the decrease in the number of malicious apps downloaded from the market, dropping by 40% during 2011. Speaking about the reasons behind this drop, Lockheimer said:
"This drop occurred at the same time that companies who market and sell anti-malware and security software have been reporting that malicious applications are on the rise. While it's not possible to prevent bad people from building malware, the most important measurement is whether those bad applications are being installed from Android Market - and we know the rate is declining significantly."
Other core malware prevention features include sandboxing, which places virtual walls between applications and other software on your Android device, preventing the spread of infection; Permissions which function similar to apps that you install on your Facebook profile - allowing you to determine what an app can and cannot do - and a Malware removal option.
It difficult to determine how much of a drop in malware downloads Bouncer will bring with it, especially since -judging by the above quote where it's malware and security companies that are spotting bad apps - Google's approach towards tackling malware has been relaxed to say the least. Bouncer is a step in the right direction but it only highlights just how much Google really needed to up its game when addressing this problem.
One large malware problem could be enough to undermine the work and reputation Android has developed, nor is there any real factor that could discourage developers from creating malware apps with offenders being booted out and losing their $25 developer registration fee. Yet with 11 billion apps being downloaded, Google will want to make sure that there is a follow up to Bouncer to ensure that a large malware problem doesn't become a reality in the future.