Fragmentation leaves Android phones vulnerable to hackers

Via the Washington Post:

“You have potentially millions of Androids making their way into the work space, accessing confidential documents,” said Christopher Soghoian, a former Federal Trade Commission technology expert who now works for the ACLU. “It’s like a really dry forest, and it’s just waiting for a match.”

The high degrees of fragmentation in the Android ecosystem are incredibly problematic; fragmentation combined with delays in providing updates effectively externalizes the security-related problems stemming from mobile OS vulnerabilities on individual owners of phones. Those owners are (typically) the least able parties in the owner/carrier/manufacturer/OS creator relationship to remedy the flaws. At the moment, Google tends to promptly (try) to respond to flaws. The manufacturers and vendors then have to certify and process any updates, which can take months. It’s inexcusable that these parties can not only sit on OS updates, but they can continue to knowingly sell vulnerable phones.

Imagine if, after a car line was reported to have some problem that required the line’s recall and refurbishment, dealers continued to sell the car. They didn’t even notify the person buying the car that there was a problem, just that ‘enhancements’ (i.e. the seat didn’t eject when you hit something at 60Km/hr, plus a cool new clock display on the dashboard) were coming. The dealers would be subject to some kind of legal action or, failing that, consumers could choose to work with dealers who sold safe cars. Why, exactly, aren’t phone carriers being subjected to the same scrutiny and held to the same safety standards?

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