Google Touts Remote Application Deletion as Integral to Android Security

Pulkit Chandna

In a recent white paper, Ohio-based security firm SMobile Systems' raised the alarm over the potentially huge security threat posed by the “over-reaching permissions” that every one in five apps on the Android Market appears to enjoy . Google understandably bristled at the suggestion that its beloved mobile operating system is one big security minefield.

However, Google was not alone in rebutting SMobile's claims. Cnet found SMobile's claims so flimsy that it could not resist an overwhelming sense of mea culpa and eventually took down an article dedicated to the security company's sensational claims – SMobile's close proximity with AT&T also sullied the report's credibility.

Now, Google has revealed that it remotely deleted a couple of applications from Android devices after learning that the “applications intentionally misrepresented their purpose in order to encourage user downloads.” However, it made it clear that the applications were not designed to cause malicious harm.

“After the researcher voluntarily removed these applications from Android Market, we decided, per the Android Market Terms of Service, to exercise our remote application removal feature on the remaining installed copies to complete the cleanup,” Android security lead Rich Cannings wrote in a blog post.

He then went on to tout remote deletion as an integral part of Google's response mechanism against malicious apps: “This remote removal functionality — along with Android’s unique Application Sandbox and Permissions model, Over-The-Air update system, centralized Market, developer registrations, user-submitted ratings, and application flagging — provides a powerful security advantage to help protect Android users in our open environment.”

It is conspicuous from the timing of this revelation that Google is trying to offset any harm that SMobile's claims may have done. But the Ohio-based security firm remains firm and is unlikely to do a volte-face.

Image Credit: Wired

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