Will Security Become a Major Problem for Android?

Some analysts have likened the contest between the iPhone and Android to Mac vs. PC and concluded that Android will overwhelm the iPhone the way that the PC did the Mac in the '80s and '90s. Recent marketshare numbers from Nielsen and Canalys, as well as predictions from Gartner and IDC, suggest this analogy is not invalid.

There may be another way in which the analogy is also valid: security. A new Mobile Threat Report from Lookout asserts there are a variety of growing security threats to Android: 

  • Android users are two and a half times as likely to encounter malware today than 6 months ago and three out of ten Android owners are likely to encounter a web- based threat on their device each year.
  • An estimated half million to one 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.
  • Attackers are deploying a variety of increasingly sophisticated techniques to take control of the phone, personal data, and money. Additionally, malware writers are using new distribution techniques, such as malvertising and upgrade attacks.

Absent jailbreaking the iOS environment is more secure because it's "closed" and "curated." The more "open" Android app ecosystem makes it more vulnerable to security threats, privacy invasions and identity theft, among other malicious activity.

Google is conscious of the security threats and has taken steps to remove malicious apps from the Android market when they've appeared, though this is generally after the fact. Yet the company will be unable to police the Android app universe as thoroughly as Apple can its app store. 

Consumers are almost totally ignorant of the threats to their handsets, though will be much more publicity as more scams and outright criminal activity target smartphone in the years ahead. The question is: will security become a liability for Android in the way it has for some consumers with the PC (vs. Macs)? 

Related: Android owners less prepared than RIM, iPhone owners for malware, security threats