Could your Android-based smart phone be jeopardizing your online safety and privacy? That's what one security firm's recent analysis of Google's open-source operating system is asking.
Coverity, a San Francisco-based company that checks software integrity, reports that it has found nearly 360 flaws in the Android kernel—or basic computer code—of an HTC Droid Incredible smart phone. Of those flaws, 88 were deemed "high risk" by Coverity in its "Scan 2010 Open Source Integrity Report."
Further specific details about these flaws won't be released until the end of year and after programmers at both Google and HTC have had a chance to analyze the issues for themselves.
However, Coverity also noted that despite the large number of programming flaws it has discovered, Google's Android operating system is, in fact, not as bug-filled as other software. While the industry average is one programming defect per 1,000 lines of computer code, the density of flaws in the Incredible's Android comes out to less than half—0.47 per 1,000 lines of code. What's more, not every programming flaw has been—or can be—exploited by hackers and criminals.
Still, whether you use a smart phone powered by Google's Android or Apple's iOS operating system, you should remember that smart phones are really mobile mini-computers—and potentially subject to the same online security risks as their larger brethren. Follow these tips to minimize your exposure to danger:
- Before you install any app, read the program's notes and disclaimers (if any) and make sure you understand what information about you and your phone the app will collect, use and share with programmers and other apps.
- Don't use your smart phone's browser for sensitive online tasks, such as checking your bank account balances
- Don't respond to SMS or text messages from strangers since it might lead to more cell phone spam
- Be extra cautious of messages asking for personal information like bank account numbers or PINs since they might be "smish"
- Turn off your GPS when you don't need it for navigation
For other online safety tips, see our Guide to Online Security.