18
Nov 11

The official home of malware

Critics eager to find Apple’s fatal flaw have long pointed to their closed way of thinking.

By being stubborn and insisting on controlling both  hardware and software, Apple is dooming itself in mobile devices to the same second-class status it had in PCs. Or so the story goes.

In truth, history really is repeating — but this time it’s being far kinder to Apple.

Just as Macintosh was dwarfed in market share by a mass-market legion of PCs, iPhone was surpassed in market share by a mass-market legion of Android phones.

But just as the warm, inviting openness of PCs turned Windows into a breeding ground for malware, the “freedom” and “openness” of Android has already done the same.

According to the annual Malicious Mobile Threats Report from Juniper Networks, malware in the Android world rose an amazing 472% this year over last.

Juniper points out that the inherent security of either platform isn’t the issue. It’s the fact that no app enters Apple’s App Store without first being reviewed. The only thing that stands between a developer (or evildoer) posting an app in the Android Marketplace is a $25 fee.

Malware does ultimately get removed from the Marketplace, but only after it’s been reported — which can only happen after it’s been installed on potentially thousands of phones.

Apple has been attacked for being controlling on two different levels. One is that they won’t allow you to have your way with iOS to the point where you can monkey with the basic interface. Only a small part of the population cares much about this.

The other is that Apple is Big Brother-like when it comes to the App Store. They trample our liberties and shackle the developers. Personally, I find it difficult to care about this argument either. The suggestion that Apple somehow limits my choice when I’m browsing over 500,000 apps is pretty silly. I promise to begin caring when someone shows me an Android app that I wish I could have on my iPhone, but whose functionality Apple has banned.

The only limitation I’ve ever felt on an iPhone is my inability to have myself victimized by malware. Damn you, Apple.

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  • Kesey

    Wow Ken. Even Gruber can play devils advocate with this one.

    http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/11/17/android-malware

  • ken segall

    That’s a pretty lame devil’s advocate position — that it only matters if it’s a real problem for typical Android users. Obviously it’s a problem for anyone who ends up with malware in their phone, and some may never even know that they it — because the malware is simply harvesting their personal data in the background.

    But the point of this study wasn’t whether this problem actually impacts too many people today. It’s that the rate of increase in Android malware is through the ceiling. So your chances of downloading malware from the Marketplace — as a “typical Android user” — are going up and up and up. Google can either hope this trend slows down by itself, or they can do something to make it stop.

  • With 500,000 apps probably very few users will ever miss the good and useful applications, not malware, that in a way or another didn’t make it to the App Store.
    But Ken, you can put it as Apple is only protecting their users from malware, Apple is protecting also their ecosystem. While this undeniably limits user’s freedom, you cannot do with your device whatever you want (consoles manufactures are going in this route too) this might be the only way to preserve a healthy, financially, ecosystem.

  • Ops, I meant “you can’t put it as…”

  • ken segall

    @Christian:
    I never meant to imply that Apple enforced their policy only to protect their users from malware. Absolutely, they do this to protect their ecosystem.

    It’s worthwhile to take a step back. Both Steve Jobs and Jony Ive have publicly described Apple’s overall philosophy. Their goal is not to make a profit. Their goal is to make the best possible products and provide the best possible user experience. If they do those things, the profits are a natural result.

    I think iPhone is a darn good example of that. Apple controls the hardware, iOS and App Store so that they can guarantee the best possible experience. A lot of people like that approach. (And those who don’t are free to buy other devices.) As a result, Apple has made a ton of money.

    The recurring complaint, as you put it, that with iPhone, “you cannot do whatever you want” remains a perplexing one to me. As I said in my article, I have literally never seen an example of an app with a functionality I wish I had, but that Apple will not allow. To the contrary, my sense as a customer is that I can do whatever I want with an iPhone — and when I browse the App Store, I see a ton of things I never knew I wanted to do. In this sense, I think I’m the average user. Those who want some level of “freedom” beyond this aren’t Apple’s audience.

  • Fan of Steve

    I still look forward to the day that justice is done, Google owes Apple about a hundred billion for patent infringement, and either shuts down android and pays Apple off, or sells itself to Apple and becomes Apple’s search subsidiary.

    the fandroids and leftists will scream bloody murder, but the alternative is an end to innovation. (And even screaming bloody murder is their method of avoiding learning from reality.)

    I’m engaged in business that could be on the android platform as well as iOS, but I refuse to go on android and am sticking to my principles on this.

    I’d rather work at McDonalds than desecrate myself by selling out and supporting thievery.

  • Bmcfadden

    How could anyone that has ever had their computer infected and lost all their data to a malware virus ever want to go through with that again on their phone?

    This happened to me on a PC — ONCE. It will never happen to me again. I only use Macintosh. I have never again been infected or had my computer crash. I simply have no time to indulge the criminal, psychotic fantasies of those who spend their day wanting to do me harm. I will not willingly provide them the means to attack me. I wish Android users all the luck in the world to avoid viruses and malware — because vast amounts of luck is precisely what they need.