Why Microsoft is battling Android malware

Microsoft is opening up the Windows Store to Android apps, but first it had to assemble a team to make sure the malware found in the Google Play store doesn't come with them.

Android malware Microsoft Windows Store Visual Studio

It's no secret that Android has a badware problem. One report said 97% of malware can be found on the Android platform, while a more recent report says Android apps are rife with secret usage tracking.

Microsoft's Windows Store doesn't have this problem because, unfortunately, no one uses Windows Phone. Its market share remains stuck in the low single digits. But with the recent update to Visual Studio adding support for porting Android apps to Windows Phone, Microsoft is preparing for the flood of Android apps, good and bad.

Microsoft wants to keep that badware out of the Windows ecosystem, and to do this, the company said it will employ a team of researchers who will monitor the apps being offered up to the Windows Store. Based on telemetry data from Windows users and report submissions, they will either block these apps from getting into the store or, if they slip past security monitoring, they will remove them.

The initiative is called Project Astoria, and it was announced in a session at the Build conference last week. A video of the session is available here:

Astoria is a pretty complex project. The goal is to allow apps to be ported with as few code changes as possible. It will support both Java and native Android code (C/C++), along with Gradle, a project automation tool that can be used to generate builds for both Android and Windows from the same source.

Porting works by redirecting Android OS calls to their Windows equivalent. Google Play services calls are remapped to Bing, and Google Maps is revised to support Bing Maps.

Microsoft is also reportedly working on a project called Islandwood, which operates like Astoria, only it brings iOS applications to Windows. Importing Objective-C Xcode into Visual Studio is nowhere near as easy as Android C code, so this requires more work on Microsoft's part. That's all I know at this point.

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