A Look at 'Googola's' Security Prospects
"Googola" -- Google’s deal to acquire Motorola Mobility -- has intellectual property rights and security at its core.
Google’s Android holds 48 percent of the world’s smartphone market, with 107.7 million units shipping in the second quarter of 2011. As of May, over a third of American adults (35 percent) owned a smartphone of some kind, out of the 83 percent of American adults who owned a cell phone. And 80 percent of US smartphone owners use their phone to access the Internet, while 37 percent use it for Internet banking.
On the downside, here’s some unsettling information from the vendor Lookout Mobile Security:
An estimated half million to 1 million people were affected by Android malware in the first half of 2011; Android apps infected with malware went from 80 apps in January to over 400 apps cumulative in June 2011.
The vast majority of Android users happily surf the Internet or increasingly make use of online banking -- oblivious to the mobile malware that could be lurking. Most Android users are blissfully unaware that they are http://blog.mylookout.com/ two and a half times as likely to encounter malware today as they were six months ago. It is a reasonable estimate that three Android owners out of 10 are likely to encounter an active Web-based and device-changing threat each year.
With security increasingly an issue, will Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility up the ante?
Googola will need to move fast and lock down Android systems to catch up on embedded security. It is clear the world’s heavyweights in chip and hardware development are squaring up against each other. For example, Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA Mini Pro and coming XPERIA Pro smartphones will offer McAfee protection against device loss, data theft, malware, and virus infection as standard. And McAfee is now part of Intel.
Then there is the example of Samsung’s hiring of Steve Kondik, alias Cyanogen, a prolific and well known smartphone hacker best known for his firmware hacks and customized distribution of modified firmware for Android.
Ultimately, the Googola acquisition is also based on intellectual property (IP), which is behind the current global round of court cases, such as Apple’s suing Motorola over Xoom, Apple’s injunction to block Samsung’s tablet in Europe, and HTC’s suing Apple (and vice versa).
In its own blog, Google admits a desire to repel bedmates Microsoft and Apple and their “anticompetitive” patent attacks on the Android market. Google also hopes the Motorola acquisition will “supercharge Android.”
In terms of security, perhaps the real jewel in the crown of the Googola deal is Motorola’s Mobility Information Protection group, currently the security division of Motorola. This encompasses one of the best security frameworks around, with the ability to identify malicious network activity and mitigate threats to protect the critical networks of enterprises. We can assume Google eventually will make this framework available to Android cellular operators.
We also can hope this points to “supercharged security” not only for existing devices, but also for the innovative products that Google is banking on the Motorola deal to bring to market. The “home market” and the “living room” featured prominently in a Google and Motorola Webcast on the acquisition hint at the possible products, including those resulting from the “convergence of mobiles and set-top boxes.”
Of course, for those concerned with diminishing privacy, there’s this: By combining your searches on your PC, geo-locating your Android phone, and ultimately determining what TV you are watching, Google will know everything about you.