Mobile phones and tablets may not be the popular destination for malicious software that analysts and security companies would have consumers believe, said Google Open Source Programs Manager Chris DiBona. The expert had some harsh words for companies that attempt to sell anti-virus software for Android and iOS devices.
In a blog post last week that pulled no punches, DiBona played down the mobile virus threat and the likelihood of users being affected.
“No major cell phone has a ‘virus’ problem in the traditional sense that Windows and some Mac machines have seen,” said DiBona. “There have been some little things, but they haven’t gotten very far due to the user sandboxing models and the nature of the underlying kernels.”
DiBona condemned anti-virus companies that tell consumers otherwise, adding that they should be “ashamed” of leveraging mobile phone owners’ fear to sell them “BS protection software.”
“If you read an analyst report about ‘viruses’ infecting Android, RIM or iOS, you now know that analyst firm is not honest and is staffed with charlatans,” he wrote. “If you read a report from a vendor that tries to sell you something based on protecting Android, RIM or iOS from viruses they are also likely as not to be scammers and charlatans.”
Needless to say, some security folks were none too pleased with DiBona’s remarks. Sophos Head of Technology Paul Ducklin criticized the Google manager’s claims, calling him a “hackerishly hirsute geezer.”
“Bad things can and have happened on mobile devices, though the probability of you being affected is currently small, and your time exposed to danger might be short,” said Ducklin. “And those bad things can happen despite the sandboxing and security designed into the operating system on those devices.”