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Android App Security Fail Gives Google One Black Eye After Another

Google (GOOG) management must like a good fight. In the mobile space, it has left Android apps with one security problem after another. It's almost as though Google thought that hitting the number-one smartphone operating system spot in the U.S. was too easy and it needed more of a challenge. So, why not lose control over Android app security and give competitors a sporting chance?

First, Google had to pull 50 apps from its marketplace because they were infected with malware and transmitting user data to parts unknown. Now researcher Jon Oberheide has found a serious bug in the Android Market that could have tricked people into clicking a link that silently installs a malicious app. According to Oberheide, the problem should have been obvious.

Clearly Google doesn't have the regimented approach to doing business that Apple (AAPL) does. Of course, that's part of its appeal, and a reason why Android so quickly passed all the competition.

(Although some quibble that Android's lead in the smartphone-OS arena emerged before Verizon (VZ) began to sell the iPhone, that won't ultimately change things much. People who were insistent on having an iPhone could have gone to AT&T (T), and the people who find that thought too much to bear are an insignificant minority. If they weren't, AT&T wouldn't have as many subscribers as it does, original iPhone exclusivity or not.)

App security still a big Android weakness
Still, apps are an important aspect of using a smartphone, and app security is an area where Google remains weak. The fact that the company had to remotely destroy Android malware apps that were already installed on user phones is disconcerting. Yes, I suppose it's good to know that the company can do that -- well, sort of, at least -- but bad to think that the company's app marketplace procedures and processes made it necessary.

To be fair, perhaps Apple has also remotely destroyed malware, only more secretly. Even if that were the case, though, Google is now the one associated with the problem.

Unless Google can find a way to lock down the security of apps and ensure some degree of trust for users, Android runs the risk of earning a reputation as a "dangerous" platform -- and that's not a position anyone wants to be in.

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Image: Flickr user fmerenda, CC 2.0.
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