Tempest in a Teacup: Android’s Latest Security Scare

Tempest in a Teacup:  Android’s Latest Security Scare

Sensationalism sells, unfortunately, and every time we turn on the television we get the sense that somebody is trying very hard to scare us to death.  Regrettably, the talking heads of the mobile app industry are just as guilty of this as the doomsayers anchoring the 24-hour news channels.

You may have recently read about the security problem with Android handsets.  (If you follow tech news, even casually, it was hard not to.)  In spite of the fact that Google almost immediately rolled out a security fix, this did very little to stem the tide of alarmists the world over.  Bloggers of every stripe decried Android’s “extraordinary security flaw,” referred to the Android Market as the “Wild, Wild West” where the “inmates run the asylum,” and in one particularly overblown warning, we were told that “we are so hosed.” We had the sense that looking up movie times in a restaurant would inevitably lead to our bank accounts being instantly drained, our credit lines being maxed out, and finding, when we got home from the movie we’d just seen, that someone else was living in our house.

Google prides itself on the openness of its marketplace, and rightly so, and that openness naturally leads to some security concerns.  We are decidedly not suggesting that Android users remain oblivious to those concerns, but this most recent issue was not all it was cracked up to be.  Ed Burnette of ZDNet helpfully summarized what was at stake with the most recent hullabaloo:

What’s a vulnerable situation? IF you sync your calendar or contacts while using the open WiFi of the local StarBucks or airport, and IF somebody within 50 feet or so of you is waiting for you to do that and is running a packet sniffer, and IF you think they might do harm by looking at your doctor’s appointments and boyfriend’s phone number, THEN you might want to take precautions such as turning off WiFi until you get back home to your secure network. Otherwise, in my opinion it’s not worth getting too worked up about.

Of course, everyone should be vigilant about internet security, and we wouldn’t dream of suggesting otherwise.  But in this, as in everything else, common sense should prevail.


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