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Android With Proprietary Apps Installed is Not Secure

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Security at 6:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Proprietary on top of Free/libre is like mud below a fortress

A fortress

Summary: The need to be able to verify that programs treat users respectfully and how it applies to Android

A new version of Android is said to be just days away [1]. There are already some rumoured features [2], but it is hard to tell more because the development process is not as open/free as Google would like us to believe. Google already lost a prominent FOSS figure because, according to him, Android was not so loyal to freedom or openness anymore.

“One cannot build back doors if they become visible. It’s a case of trust through deterrence.”Android is becoming somewhat of a de facto standard in watches these days [3,4], even though some companies go the other way [5]. In this area of watches, unlike CCTV-like eyeglasses (Google also explores taking fingerprints soon [6]), partners of Google appear to be ahead of Google. The same goes for TVs based on Android [7]. Android is almost becoming a de facto standard in embedded also [8].

Let’s accept the fact that Android is here to stay and to thrive (around 80% market share now), but how secure is it really? According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, spies are now accessing the microphone (and maybe camera) of Android devices remotely. Let’s accept the fact that the user is the weakest link (installing malware on one’s own [9]) and without a doubt users will always need to step in and do potentially risky things (adding software, as promoted in [10-12] this month, is the strength of Android). We are left dependent on trusting developers, not just within Google but also outside it (the community is developers is broadening [13]). Many of them are releasing proprietary software into Google’s digital market, so how can we — as users — check that these applications really respect our privacy and strictly obey OS-level restrictions? The users need not be developers, they can simply rely on several other users auditing or forking the code out of curiosity. One cannot build back doors if they become visible. It’s a case of trust through deterrence.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Android 4.4 KitKat tweets hint at Oct. 28 launch

    Two pictures shared by @KitKat on Twitter suggest Google will launch the operating system on October 28.

  2. Android signs up for official default setting for texting

    A single messaging app for Android might be closer than you think, as Google unveils new settings in KitKat to officially set a default text-messaging app.

  3. Sony SmartWatch 2 ticks as Google watch rumors tock

    Sony shipped its Android-based SmartWatch 2 in the U.S. market, featuring higher-resolution, NFC sync, and water resistance, while also launching its Xperia Z Ultra phablet and Xperia Z1 phone. Meanwhile, Google’s long awaited smartwatch — rumored to be a Nexus model codenamed Gem and featuring Google Now technology — is expected to be unveiled with Android 4.4 (aka KitKat) on Oct. 31.

  4. Review: Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch

    When a new tech product launches, reviewers usually come to some sort of consensus. Often something just clicks, and you see raves across the board. Other times, the product has obvious flaws, and critics are all equally quick to point those out. The early consensus for the Samsung Galaxy Gear, however, isn’t quite jiving with us. Though it’s been almost universally panned, we had a very different take on it. Why? Read on, as Gizmag gives you a different perspective on the new Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

  5. Nike’s no-Android stance on FuelBand is a huge mistake

    Nike is only shooting itself in the foot with its stubborn reluctance to work with Android.

  6. Android Fingerprint Sensors Coming Soon

    A coming web standard being pursued by the FIDO Alliance seeks to enable much wider use of biometric sensors to access accounts. FIDO should reduce, if not eliminate all together, the use of passwords to access accounts on mobile devices. The initial FIDO-equipped Android devices are on track to roll out in early 2014.

  7. Devs jump on Android TV ahead of Google

    Google may be keeping quiet on when the Google TV platform will be updated to the Jelly Bean operating system, but developers are already hard at work.

  8. Android HDMI-stick mini-PC includes Ethernet port

    Zhongshan Gosinggo has begun selling a 4.1 x 1.5 x 0.6-inch Android 4.1 mini-PC that includes both WiFi and Ethernet ports. The Gosinggo GSG-TB-06 is equipped with a 1GHz Allwinner A10 processor and Mali-400 GPU, as well as 1GB of DDR3 RAM, up to 32GB of flash, an HDMI port, and dual USB ports.

  9. How Secure Is Android, Really?

    Let’s get this out of the way. Android as an operating system is very secure. It has multiple layers of protection to keep malware at bay, and it requires your specific permission to do almost anything that could lead to your data or the system being compromised. However, Android is an open system that trusts you the user and its community of developers to do the right thing. If you want to, you can give away a lot of permissions, and even access to deeper parts of the system if you’ve rooted your phone. Android tries to protect you from yourself, but if you nudge it, it lets you have the final say on what to install (and from where, like unknown sources and beyond the regularly-patrolled walls of Google Play) and who to give permissions to.

  10. New Aviate app makes Android phones more intuitive

    There comes a time in every smart phone owner’s life when the number of installed apps outweighs the brainpower available to the owner to keep them all managed. Enter Aviate, a new home screen management system for Android that aims to keep everything under control, intelligently.

  11. 9 of the best video-player apps for Android
  12. Top 15 Android tablet apps for work and play

    Android tablets have come a long way since the first, the Motorola XOOM, appeared. The right apps make them great tablets for both work and play.

  13. The Big Android BBQ 2013 in pictures

    The Big Android BBQ is a unique combination of developer conference and enthusiast get-together, all wrapped up in a general celebration of the Android operating system. Attendees come from all over the world to share ideas, best practices, or just to hang out with friends. This year the conference saw more than 40 sessions ranging from Glass development to hardware hacking, with more than a few things in between.

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