Android puts out call to mobile security gurus

Developers of Android, the Linux mobile operating system spearheaded by Google, are asking security experts for input.

Developers of Android, the Linux mobile platform spearheaded by Google, are asking security experts for input.

The latest software development kit for Android was released earlier this week and plans are for the 1.0 version of the operating system to be shipped on mobile phones later this year.

Security is a priority. "As you may expect, building and maintaining a secure mobile platform is a difficult task," wrote the Android Security Team.

"While we have found and fixed many of our own bugs as well as flaws in other open-source projects, we realize that the discovery of additional security issues in a system this large and complex is inevitable," the team wrote, in a message on the Android security announcements section of the Google Groups site.

The invitation means the Android platform will likely get a thorough review from developers outside the Android Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of companies contributing to the platform's development.

Proponents of the open-source development model -- where code can be analyzed by anyone -- argue it results in more secure and stable products in contrast to proprietary software, where the master code is a closely guarded secret by software companies.

The Android Security Team wrote that it hopes security analysts will privately forward bugs since the operating system will eventually be deployed on many different devices that will "require a large amount of coordination to patch."

Mobile devices have not been afflicted by malicious software to the extent of desktop OSes, but experts have said they expect that to change.

Symbian's Series 60 OS was targeted in 2005 by Comwar, a worm that spread via Bluetooth and MMS (multimedia messaging service).

In 2006, researchers found the first for-profit mobile malware, called Redbrowser. When activated, the malware sent SMS (short message service) messages to a phone number that charges around US$6 per message.

It targeted devices running the J2ME (Java 2 Mobile Edition) software, which is included on some 1 billion devices from vendors such as Nokia, Motorola and Research in Motion.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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