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.