Who's ready for the next round of the "Android is riddled with malware" game? Apparently the Washington Post is. John Gruber of Daring Fireball linked everyone to their story today that explains how Android's open model creates a fragmented system that is "like a really dry forest, and it’s just waiting for a match." That match, of course, is malware. It's a shame, really. Today's story at the Post brings several real issues to light. Manufacturers and carriers do have a problem keeping Android up to date, and failure to include Google's security patches makes things tough in the enterprise. Too bad it's all hidden under the buzzwords and click bait.

Malware that can execute on Android exists. Only a fool would think otherwise. But something else also exists, and it affects more people than Android based malware ever will. You don't realize it's happening when it happens, and it's everywhere. You see, the more you interact with a website, the more money the owners of that site make. The business of getting you to click a link because it has a sensational headline is alive and well, and getting bigger.

Every website has an agenda. We have one, and I'm not trying to claim we don't make money from you visiting our site. We try to write and share stuff we think is cool, and that you'll think is cool, so that you enjoy your visit here. There are plenty of other places on the Internet who do the same. I think that's great, because everyone benefits. The website owners make a little money, and we get to read and interact with things we enjoy reading. Those sites we end up visiting at least once a day because of what we see posted deserve our patronage.

But sometimes, the agenda isn't so clear. Companies like the Washington Post know that writing stories about Android malware will get plenty of interaction, which means plenty of page-views, which means plenty of return on the small investment of writing them. People who link to them, like Mr. Gruber, will get those same clicks as people surf through to get to the inflammatory content. It's simple really -- Android fans will rush to protect what they love, Apple fans will rush to criticize, websites will make money from it. And thanks to search engine optimization, the links will stay near the top in Google for a long time, drawing in even more eyeballs.

Understanding why companies who write anti-malware programs for Android push the malware angle is easy enough. They want you to use their product, and aren't afraid to scare you into doing it. They find threats that could potentially affect users, play them off as imminent cyber-attacks, and profit from doing so. It's a shame, because there really is a place for their products and services once you go past the rhetoric. Armed with these studies and quotes, websites can then build a story about how horrible the malware problem on Android is, fueling the flame war that will happen and benefiting from all the clicks. Unfortunately, truth and the real issue gets buried under the sensationalism. 

The next time you see a headline about fragmentation and malware and hackers, take a few minutes and consider the agenda of the people posting it. Any story about malware on any platform (remember when the same folks cashed in on OS X malware stories?) without numbers is not giving you the full picture, and just might be more worried about getting your clicks than any real discussion.


Reader comments

Editorial: On fragmentation, malware, and clicks


I'm not dismissing all anti virus for Android, but there was a test in the past that show most of them being completely useless, infact a lot came with adwares. Also AVG was removed from Microsoft's Market for not doing what it claimed, I wouldn't get it for Android either. 'Zoner' fared well in the test, I personally use LBE Security Master.

Thanks for the level-headed take on the malware situation. It was a refreshing read compare the the "flame war" articles on other sites I keep finding my self reading the comment sections of.... I really need to stop that.

It's funny that you mention reading the "flame war" articles and comments on other sites: I do the same on a daily basis just to get a good laugh. Some people will say anything to further their own agenda, even if they're not getting paid for it.

The article that takes the cake was discussing Instagram coming to Android (forgot what site it was). The iOS users were calling all Android users pigs, accusing them of being poor, and begging them to not friend them on Instagram. I got a great laugh out of that one for sure.

Haha I know what you are saying. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the something along the lines of "android is for people that can't afford an iphone." it makes me laugh. Can't you get an iphone 4 for free on contract???

True Illustrator Joe. The S3 was the same price as the iphone 5 for outright purchase on release. Androids being for poor people is an ignorant statement. But let's get real here, many iPhone owners are ignorant. They have a phone that's easy to use, light on features,light on specs and non-customizable sold by a company that tells you what you shouldn't and shouldn't want in a phone. There are only a few levels to attack on from an Apple fanboys perspective: malware/viruses (not that there's proof of this, they just heard it from another fanboy), price (ignorance and arrogance because android offers phones for all classes)and building materials (they believe glass and aluminum are quality, even though broken iphones is a $6B industry).

@ badbooks9

Actually, since most android users are still on 2.3, the whole "android is for tech geeks" is really null. You can criticize the iphone for being "light on specs, features, and easy to use" but let's be real for a second, without the advent of the device, the smartphone/tablet movement would be years behind. I'm not a fan-boy, but I respect Apple's brand and what they did for consumer electronic since 2000.
And it would be obvious that the whole "non-customizable" argument is null as well since most of the bigger OEMs skin their devices to dumb them down for regular users.
I think the biggest flame wars should be between Nexus users and everyone else on android because the only thing they have in common is access to Google Play. A nexus 4 and SGS 3 are miles apart in ease of use for the average person.
This is coming from a person who has had every iphone (until 5), HTC Vivid, Inspire, Sammy Captivate, GS2, and now a GNote 2.
At the end of the day, competition creates innovation.

I know, seriously. Reading comment sections from any website on the internet really depresses me, and makes me lose faith in humanity. The complaining, the name calling/personal insults, and the "you owe me this" attitude--it all really gets to me.
It's easy to get caught up in the middle of it. I really need to stop reading that stuff too.
Oh, and all the Android malware articles that are going around the web are deliberate BS, for the sole purpose of getting people worked up. The comment section from these articles always includes a big group of posting the same lame argument and statement: "Duh, of course Android is invested with malware, it's OPEN-SOURCE, (ZOMFG!) which means that ANYONE can look at the code and write viruses for it!"--as if security is just that simple, and it's only dependent on how open or closed the source files are.
God, why can't people be a little more skeptical with the information they read.


(I've never said that before in my life, lol. Just thought it was fitting for the moment.)

after reading this thread i didnt even bother clicking the link. 1 less click for the trolls.

now, back to business, where is the 20 carbon giveaway Jerry??

I actually got one of the Carbon codes. Craziness. There were 1100 thread replies when I checked this morning, and I was one of 20.

I got one too. The app has potential, but it still needs refinement.

I appreciate the free code from AC, but it will only activate on one device, so I'll need to buy it anyway to load it on all my other devices (wanted to use it to keep game saves sync'd between devices.)


And still every time some ones buys a new android phone the first thing they post is what antivirus program do I install. That's is simple none. It is fear factor and still no one believes it. They just believe what the app devoloper writes.

^^^^^THIS^^^^^ +9000 Just to add to that: Most of the malware plaguing Android is harmless if you use a little common sense.

Android has no more of a malware problem than Windows does. But for some reason people like to think (and write stories) that Google is responsible for you not doing anything stupid on your small computer with phone capabilities.

ALOHA Android Central! I've been an iPhone user for a while and like most iUsers, I got sick and tired of getting a well designed phone but nothing in terms of a wow factor in the OS upgrades. I've been looking at the Android OS for a while and the phone I went with is the Samsung GS3. I got it in the new black color way. It's funny that the first article I read on this site after getting my new phone is the same subject all of my tech/gadget freak friends were telling me so that I would stay away from Android. I'm a firm believer that if something is going to happen then it's going to happen. Those discussions about viruses and malware were put into my decision making but at the end of the day, it was up to me and what I wanted in a new phone. iOS has its faults and so does every other platform. When I hear the faults of any OS I usually take it with a grain of salt. Sorry if I'm not making sense or if this comment is so long. Just wanted to put in my 2 cents and just going off the top. Feels great to be part of this community.

I thought Phil wrote this & didn't read it with the WV twang in my head I would have had I known gbhil wrote it! I think it was the editorial slant on the piece that sold me :-)
Very well written señor, you've added points in your column at my expense!

What's funny is most of the people I know with a iphone hate them. They play with my gs2 and wish they had got it or gs3 instead. Good advertising and computers don't make for a great phone experience, especially when it's a walled garden. As far as fragmentation.... Root it and get up to date! Android would have to become useless and turn into ios before I'd think about anything else.
Not flaming just my opinion.
Got to love the mainstream media.... They blow! It's unfortunate that a entity that got very specific protection in the constitution turned into something no better than the dog turd you step on in a new pair of shoes going on a first date. :-D

Got to love the mainstream media.... They blow! It's unfortunate that a entity that got very specific protection in the constitution turned into something no better than the dog turd you step on in a new pair of shoes going on a first date. :-D

What does this mean?

Typical lets put our head in the sand mentality. Android has a problem and it's Google's fault. Take control over your OS and it will all go away.

What the hell are you talking about? Is Android filled with malware? If so care to point it out? Or is Google not in control of Android? Just what are you claiming & what's your factual evidence?

I'll play along why not. Gruber is clearly your troll king, so why are you here? To spread the same FUD he does with nothing but his on bias to back it up?

Now whether any of that is true who knows. But to just throw out the comment of Android having a problem, no specifics, just that it has a problem, well so does every other computing platform.

Its really hard to root HTC phones and even harder on Verizon. Kinda sucks. On t-Mobile or Sprint, with Samsung, you can flash all damn day.

I don't know about the rooting an HTC as I own a Droid 4. But I do know that is was very easy to root my Droid 4, my fiance's Droid 3, my cousin's Galaxy S3 and Sidekick. The Droid 3 and Droid 4 are on Verizon and it was just a button click away. Not bashing you just saying that it isn't always difficult. In my experience it wasn't carrier based, but phone model based that determined the difficulty.

Well, it's not really hard to root HTC phones, but what it is is slightly lengthy and time consuming a process. What with their unlock website and all that.

As for Verizon, well, on that I'll have to agree. Depending on the phone it can be pretty tough, but eventually they're all rootable.

If you're personally having issues rooting a specific device, I'm no expert but I do like to think I know more than my fair share of rooting related information, just tell me what device you're needing rooted and I'll point you in the right direction for easy rooting of it.

+ 1000 That is EXACTLY what I was thinking! BGR = write any outrageous article based on a tiny crumb of truth just to atract readers.

speaking of Android malware, were there ever any malware releases that took advantage of the Exynos bug?

In my15+ years of computing, I can remember contracting a virus only two times- both from email attachments from friends. With Android, I don't sideload and I don't enable "allow mock sources". I consider those two items as my electronic condoms.
The ultimate protection is common sense- practice safe surf!

Any platform is a really dry forest, and while malware may be the match, it's the end user who strikes it.

In plain English, use your tech responsibly and it's rarely an issue in the first place. I stopped getting viruses on my computer when my brain began to be able to cope with the flush of testosterone that puberty was flooding it with and stopped going to seedy porn sites.

The internet is like a vast city. It's fun to explore and find new things, but some neighborhoods will get you stabbed.

How is this article any different? Completely minimize a problem and use the column space to "rally the troops" to defend a part of Android that is potentially a detriment to all of its users.

I'm not saying that the people that sensationalize headlines are innocent in any of this, but to completely gloss over fragmentation and malware issues that exist in the Android world and try to shift blame to the people who are pointing it out (agendas aside) is just silly.

Show me some numbers.

  • Consumers don't know or care what version of Android they run.
  • Malware exists, but nobody ever seems to have been bit by any. 


When someone (anyone) can provide evidence to the contrary, I'm all ears.

Consumers don't know or care what version of Android they have until they find an app they want to use that isn't compatible with their build. Fragmentation is a problem for both users and devs and is something shows no signs of improving.

As far as the malware goes....

Just because the more tech savvy among us know how to avoid it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and can be a very big problem for users.

I would say that any actual INFECTIONS of MalWare on Android devices happen because people who get infections were sideloading hacked files from sites designed to escape paying the developers for their work, or some such nonsense.

99.99% (or more) of users have no need for such things. I would say that FUD is selling this stuff for phones.

I see it slightly differently (of course I do!)

Both the iOS and Android ecosystems are Unix-based, which is a solid OS and "almost unbreakable".
Because iOS is "closed-off" by Apple, it is near to unbreakable; not 100% but...
However, Android being open-source is manipulated by everyone and their brother, not forgetting sister too. It goes without saying then (but I'll say it anyway) that that also makes it potentially more vulnerable. That said, why not take preemptive action? That's the first thing I did when I recently got my Android device.

After running updates on any of my new Windows computers, I then install and update my anti-malware product. The Windows OS is so prominent throughout the world, guess which OS will be targeted the most? That's just common sense and good computing.

Lastly, I always thought that's why AC, as well as other sites, sometimes write the most "moronic" (everyone is entitled to an opinion) articles; it is to generate revenue based on your foregoing explanation. Thank you; now I can stop going into spasmodic fits when I read some articles!

I disagree. The fact that Android/Linux is open which mean there are many developers and eyes on it, so when bugs are detected, it can be made aware or patched, even if the manufacturer refused to. And there are firewall and other apps made to protect devices. You're not allow those tools on iOS and the fact that it is closed source, there can be potential exploitable bugs Apple isn't aware of. There are bugs that Apple has been slow to patch or refuses to patch.

On the other hand, since Google doesn't have a full grip of the updating process, many phones are left running older Android version. I agree there can be something done about that. However, as a whole I feel safer using Android than iOS, the fact that iOS is closed, its harder for one to protect oneself. Not to forget what Apple can do with your private data and phone, which you have more control of on Android from my personal experience (using AOSP, not installing any Google apps, running firewall and using special programs to prevent permission that apps request, etc. I don't do all of this however if I wish to Android give me the choice.)

This may have been said already. But, Jerry, you do see the irony in this article?

I just read about how websites lure you in to read about malware and fragmentation only for clicks and no real information. But your article did literally that, I came here to learn about malware (on my favorite android website) and learned nothing about the topic...

So THIS article isn't being rated by how many clicks it garners for the web site and it's advertisers?

It's all about the clicks nowadays, so no sense in the author crying about that.

The WashPo story has valid points and merely states facts.

So why does everyone bury their head in the sand? Jerry your article is even worse as it contains no information at all other than; "Don't read the WashPo story."