Who Mobile Malware Affects, and How

After years of being overhyped by vendors of security software, mobile malware is finally a real threat. Google banished more than four dozen free apps from its storefront last week after it was discovered that the titles contained a Trojan horse designed to steal users’ information. The apps, which included pirated and copycat versions of legitimate Android (s goog) titles, had been downloaded tens of thousands of times before being identified and ousted. Which demonstrates why Google’s anything-goes policy regarding Android Market is becoming so dangerous.

DroidDream, as the virus was dubbed, may have been the most damaging piece of malware yet to affect mobile users, but the vulnerabilities of Android Market have long been a cause for concern. And Google’s refusal to play app cop could impact the mobile application space and its players:

  • Competing app stores: Competing app stores like Amazon’s (s amzn) upcoming storefront have a chance to differentiate their wares by vetting them before making them available to consumers.
  • Developers: User reviews are fine, but the app world needs to come up with a universal system for testing apps and making them easy for consumers to identify.
  • Security vendors: Established players like McAfee (s mfe) and Kaspersky Lab would be wise to leverage their reputation on PCs as they try to exploit the mobile space, while smaller vendors will need to find ways to market their software through tactics like in-app advertising and freemium offerings.

The bottom line is that Google’s unwillingness to play app cop could damage the reputation of Android Market — and maybe even the operating system as a whole. For more thoughts on how those dangers could impact the world of mobile applications, please see my column this week at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: Flickr user chego101.

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