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Android Security: Why Anti-Virus Companies Shouldn't Be Trusted

Authored by: Steven Blum — Jan 31, 2012

Okay, everyone can calm down now; it seems that the hype over the so called "Android Counterclank," malware is largely overblown.

On Friday, Symantec claimed they had found a piece of malware on about a dozen apps in the official Android Market. Capitalizing on the users' fear of malware, Symantec released the shock-headline, "Highest-distributed malware found this year" – a dubious distinction, given the fact that the year had just begun.

In fact, Symantec's entire business plan is predicated on scaring people into downloading their anti-virus app.

In the chart Symantec released, you could feel the fear: the company indicated a possibility of one to five million installations of malware-infected apps. News organizations, including AndroidPIT, were quick to write-up stories about the malware scare, although we didn't write such numbers as "1-5 million Android users infected," as some Android blogs did.

But it turned out that the "malware" was simply aggressive advertising software, the number of affected devices was closer to 1,000 and the risk level to your phone was actually "Level 1: Very Low."

So why did Symantic cry wolf?

Part of the reason is the fact that their very business model has been laid on a foundation of customer fears. When folks believe that the apps they install may contain malware, they're more likely to download anti-malware apps from folks like Symantic. But the company is really hurting its credibility when it's forced to backtrack on big claims like "1-5 million" infected devices.

In fact, there aren't any "insiduous applications that bury themselves in your firmware," according to Information Week. As Chris DiBona, open-source manager at Google, posted on his Google+ account, "Yes, virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you bs protection software for Android, RIM and IOS. They are charlatans and scammers. IF you work for a company selling virus protection for android, rim or IOS you should be ashamed of yourself."

Harsh words, indeed. But when Symantic runs scare campaigns like this, it's easy to see where he's coming from. 

Source: Computer World

Steven Blum has written more than 2,000 blog posts as a founding member of AndroidPIT's English editorial team. A graduate of the University of Washington, Steven Blum also studied Journalism at George Washington University in Washington D.C. for two years. Since then, his writing has appeared in The Stranger, The Seattle P-I, Blackbook Magazine and Venture Villlage. He loves the HTC One and hopes the company behind it still exists in a few years.

4 comments

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  • Steven Blum Feb 2, 2012 Link to comment

    @Kurtis, yeah the world really needs Anti-Virus software that runs unobtrusively and is up-to-date on all the threats.

  • Kurtis Miller Feb 2, 2012 Link to comment

    While I wouldn't dream of running a Windows PC without some kind of anti-malware, even on that platform the different vendors have a significant black eye. They're either slow, bloated, loaded with false positives or virtually impossible to remove cleanly.

  • Aaron Tilton Jan 31, 2012 Link to comment

    Heh I don't think they created much in the way of malware (but if they did that would be the story of the century and would get more then a couple people behind bars) but in some cases the threat is a bit over blown.

  • Paul Janzen Jan 31, 2012 Link to comment

    That is so true. I always suspected that Antivirus companies where doing this. I would even suggest and think they also create malware.