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Android malware increasing, say antivirus firms, but Google's Chris DiBona calls it a scam

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Antivirus firms are claiming that Android is now the biggest target for malware, but Google's Chris DiBona, open-source programs manager, says that the firms are making false claims.

Galaxy Nexus Glass
Galaxy Nexus Glass

McAfee's Q3 Threats Report says that the amount of nasty code targeting Android jumped 37 percent since last quarter, and other firms including Juniper have joined in pointing at Android as the biggest target for new mobile malware — claims that have inspired Chris DiBona, Google's open-source programs manager, to write a scathing public rebuttal in which he accuses the virus companies of being "charlatans and scammers" that play on fears to sell protection software. DiBona contends that devices running Android and iOS don't need protection, and that smartphones don't have a traditional virus problem since there are significant barriers (like sandboxing) that prevent programs from spreading from phone to phone. He says that there's probably an exception, but that "extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence."

Despite the disquietude, McAfee and DiBona do agree on one point: as the popularity of a platform increases, security flaws start to become a problem. Juniper places a heap of the blame on the Android Market, which it says has seen a 472 percent increase in malware since July 2011 — Juniper says all you need is a $25 developer account to post a nefarious app which won't get removed until someone discovers it's malicious and reports it. We're not sure who to believe here without hard evidence, but with more than 200 million activated Android devices (and no signs of slowed growth), it does look like Android has achieved the popularity it needs to be a target.