Google Bolsters Android Security
In a blog post today, Google formally announced Bouncer, a service that automatically checks to ensure that apps uploaded to the Android Market aren’t malicious.
Bouncer has actually been doing its thing for months now. Google’s blog post was to let the service be more widely known and to announce that it’s already been successful.
In the post, Hiroshi Lockheimer, a vice president of engineering for Android, writes: “The service has been looking for malicious apps in Market for a while now, and between the first and second halves of 2011, we saw a 40% decrease in the number of potentially-malicious downloads from Android Market. 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.”
When an app is uploaded to Android Market, Bouncer “immediately starts analyzing it for known malware, spyware and trojans,” Lockheimer writes. To detect potential problems, Bouncer also checks for behaviors that indicate an application may be going rogue and compares those behaviors to previously analyzed apps. Google runs every Android app on its own cloud infrastructure to “simulate how it will run on an Android device” and to look for “hidden, malicious behavior.” Google also analyzes new developer accounts “to help prevent malicious and repeat-offending developers from coming back.”
Unlike Apple, which approves every iOS app in the App Store, Google screens apps once they’ve been uploaded to the Android Market. Both companies can remotely remove apps from devices if necessary, though that’s rarely enforced.
In the blog post, Google’s Lockheimer adds that Android Market app downloads totaled 11 billion last year.