Android vulnerabilities are scary, but could be a blessing in disguise

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Credit: norebbo.com

The headlines, as ever, were alarming – an Android vulnerability that could compromise a phone with nothing more than a malicious text message? With no user input? That’s enough to curdle the blood of the hardiest admin.

But even with the advent of worrying vulnerabilities like Stagefright and a similar issue disclosed this week by hackers from Check Point, the people responsible for managing BYOD environments probably aren’t exactly quaking in their boots.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: Did Android get a case of Stagefright? + Black Hat: Hackers urged to protect Internet freedom +

That’s at least partially because a hacked smartphone generally isn’t the biggest disaster from a security perspective, according to IDC program director for mobile device technology and trends Will Stofega.

There’s embarrassing, he said, and then there’s irresponsible and dangerous.

“Mobile devices are certainly a very interesting problem to think about, but they’re not the preferred vector in terms of how you get in and do damage,” said Stofega. “You might be able to get naughty pictures and some other things, but you’re not going to be able to get through a firewall and get into every credit card repository that Target owns.”

More to the point, however, the fallout from Stagefright’s disclosure could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Google’s immediate reaction has been to spearhead a program to provide monthly updates for Android devices, which goes some way toward addressing the problem that has long been one of the major enterprise concerns for the platform – fragmentation.

It’s a silver-lining kind of situation, according to Tyler Shields, principal analyst for mobile application and IoT security at Forrester Research, who said that the pressure to patch the vulnerability quickly could translate into faster patching all around – something for which the fragmented Android ecosystem has been crying out for years.

“Will this cure [the problem?] No. Will we start to see regular patch updates from folks like AT&T, Samsung, Verizon, et cetera? Yeah, we will – they’ll put out patches on a semi-frequent basis with a predictable schedule that allows the operating system and hardware to become enterprise-capable,” he said.

So far, Samsung and LG have both signed on to Google’s new program.

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