February 23, 2015 1:24:56 am
For those with phones running on Google’s Android operating system, a platform that accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the country’s mobiles phones and one that is considered particularly vulnerable from a security point of view, there’s help from an unlikely quarter — the government of India.
The Centre’s specialised cyber security agency is in final stages of readying a firewall for mobile phones running on the Android platform, for which it is in talks with the two biggest handset vendors in the country — Samsung and Micromax. The project for developing the Android ‘secure wrapper’ is being taken up as a national security initiative as nearly 50 per cent of the mobiles phone users in the country use the Android platform, which is considered a more vulnerable system as compared to the operating systems used by Blackberry or Windows phones on account of being an open source platform and also the multitude of untested applications (apps) being created by different groups.
This comes at a time when there has been a tripling of the number of customers using the mobile for banking transactions over the last two years, with the cumulative value of the banking transactions by customer having shot up over 11-folds during the period. Also, in the coming two years, there is likely to be an incremental push to the number and volumes of mobile banking customers in the wake of the government’s flagship Jan-Dhan Yojana.
The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (ICERT), a body under the department of IT, is creating a patent for the wrapper technology. A top officer at ICERT claimed that both Samsung and the Micromax are “in advanced stages of testing the product currently so that it can be bundled along with their mobile phones”. Samsung, though, is already in advanced stage of launching its own wrapper called Knox, a containerisation technology for higher-end Samsung Android devices that is meant to create a virtual partition on Android devices, thereby insulating corporate-managed apps and data from attack.
Globally, Android controls nearly 80 per cent of the smartphone market. Spam and malware aimed at Android is reported to have increased by nearly 63 per cent between 2012 and 2013, according to a report by ESET. The report points out that in 2010 there were only three families of Malware for Android, this had increased to 51 families reported in 2011; 63 in 2012; and 79 as of October 2013. A 2014 Kaspersky Security report had said in that 99 percent of newly discovered mobile malicious programmes target the Android platform.
In another initiative to safeguard mobile security, the ICERT is also in the process of tying up with software firms to develop a ‘scanner facility’.
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