Feb 02 AT 6:53 PM Edgar Cervantes 36 Comments

Google introduces Bouncer, keeps Android market free of malicious apps

bouncer Image via: Anuj Biyani with Creative Commons

Smartphone security continues to be a hot topic in the Android ecosystem. Whether you believe this is much of an issue or not, Android is the most popular mobile operating system, and the bad guys are known to target bigger markets. Google is not keeping its arms crossed, and they have just revealed Bouncer, a service that scans the Android Market for malicious apps.

This makes it easier to keep the Android Market safer while maintaining the simple process of uploading new apps (which is something developers and users love about Android). This service has been operating since the beginning of 2011, without our knowledge of its existence. And Google claims that the number of malicious app downloads has gone down by 40%, which is contrary to what most anti-virus app developers claim.

The procedure is simple (relatively). When a developer uploads an application, Bouncer analyzes it for known trojans, spyware and malware. The app is also scanned for any type of extraneous behavior, compared to past-scanned apps. The discovery of any dangerous behavior then raises a “red flag.” After finding a malicious application, Google goes on to revise the developer’s account, and prevents them from spreading any current or future dangers.

Google Mobile Blog’s post goes on to talk about the fact that Android was built with security in mind. There are multiple functions within the Android OS core, which help stop the bad guys from accessing all your goodies. Here are some of the features that help Google make our devices secure:

Sandboxing: The Android platform uses a technique called “sandboxing” to put virtual walls between applications and other software on the device. So, if you download a malicious application, it can't access data on other parts of your phone and its potential harm is drastically limited.

Permissions: Android provides a permission system to help you understand the capabilities of the apps you install, and manage your own preferences. That way, if you see a game unnecessarily requests permission to send SMS, for example, you don’t need to install it.

Malware removal: Android is designed to prevent malware from modifying the platform or hiding from you, so it can be easily removed if your device is affected. Android Market also has the capability of remotely removing malware from your phone or tablet, if required.Hiroshi LockheimerVP of Engineering, Android

As Hiroshi mentions, there is no way to stop malicious applications from getting to Android devices (or any smartphone, for that matter). What Android is trying to do here, is rid the Android market of all possible danger.

Bouncer may be the answer to all of those that worry about this issue. If an anti-virus app makes you feel more comfortable, though, it never hurts to have it. Plus, anti-theft solutions come in handy much more often than we would hope. My personal favorite happens to be avast! Free Mobile Security, followed by Lookout.

As always, though, the best solution is common sense. Getting a trojan, spyware or malware is simply not as common just yet. A googler even goes into detail about this, going as far as to mention that virus companies are “charlatans and scammers.”

Are anti-virus apps necessary?
I don't think so. Let's put it this way - I don't run those apps. That's obviously an individual choice, but I haven't felt the need for it.Hiroshi LockheimerVP of Engineering, Android
In an interview with JR Raphael, from Android Power, Lockheimer also mentions that he sees anti-virus apps as unnecessary. He also goes on to mention that the Android team is not stopping here, and they will be further trying to improve security within the Android ecosystem.

Android, security and its future
I want to emphasize that this is one piece of our overall security story. It doesn't start and end here. It starts with the device. It's not just about the app - it's the sandboxing, the (analyses of) developer accounts, and the scanning that happens. We're going for an end-to-end security path. Open source and security are not mutually exclusive.Hiroshi LockheimerVP of Engineering, Android

Just make sure you download apps from trusted sources (like the Android Market), and don’t forget to check out the permissions and app reviews. These techniques, along with Bouncer, should keep our devices safe enough, at least until this problem gets bigger (if it does). As for Google – we are glad they are working hard and have our backs.

Via: Android Power

Source: Google Mobile Blog

Hello, I am Edgar Cervantes. I am an avid Android fan, and keeping myself updated on the topic is part of my daily life. I will always work hard to give the best of me to our community of Android enthusiasts, and I am very honored to be part of this ship. Hopefully we can all enjoy sharing our knowledge and opinions!

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  • spazby

    always a welcome addition to have another layer of security….

    • Zeratoda1

      Not a bad name. I would of chosen Terminator but then again that would open the floodgates for lawsuits.

      • delinear

        Since it looks for malicious code they could call it the Worminator…

        • Mio

          But it’s again only snakeoil.

    • VASRA

      Nice to see Google doing something, but the fact is that both signature and also behavioral scanners have already failed as virus scanners on Windows desktops.

      There is *nothing* on preventing the same happening on Android if the number of malware escalates or the cycle of new 0-day ITW sample births becomes fast enough.

      At that point retrospectively added scanner features just cannot keep up.

      • azswift

        I haven’t seen a breakout of vulnerabilities in Android compared to other platforms, but recall seeing, year after year, hacker events in which Chrome is the only platform that remains secured. Similar developer practices should keep this platform more secure than others where the developers ignore security.(Apple)

        I recall articles talking about Chrome and Safari comparing the average life of a security bug on Chrome, two weeks, versus Safari, closer to two years.

        Has anyone seen a comparison of the bug-squashing efforts by handset OS developers?

        Has anyone see a comparison of the bug-squashing efforts by handset manufacturers too?

  • Jeff Pan

    Best thing to have happened to Market *ever*

    • http://mihai.discuta-liber.com/ tmihai20

      +9000 It was about time Google showed some muscle. With the cross-platform viruses, this is a welcome addition. Android Market ratings are really screwed up right now, there are users that give low score only based on the fact that they could not run the app (not being the app’s fault). Google should release statistics from Bouncer, so we know the risks we face.

    • Thomas Biard

      “Best thing to happen to Market” reminds me of…”I got them from Army mother, they’re my awards”

      I’m going to stop calling it “the Market” and just “Market”. Thank you :)

      • Thomas Biard

        What, no one like Arrested Development?

  • YNWA

    Very nice. I noticed some crazy permissions required in Lets Golf 3:


    Why would they need all those? Games should have a simple internet access requirement and a function to prevent the screen from going to sleep, and that is about it!

    • delinear

      I’d like a system where some permissions were optional. For instance, if I download a calendar app and there’s an option for it to send me an SMS/make a phone call reminder but I don’t want to give Send SMS/make phone calls/read contact permission, it would be nice if the developer had a way to make that feature optional so I could decline those permissions but still use the app.

      At the moment the system is all or nothing. I’m not complaining about the current system, I think it’s great that Anroid even gives us this information to help make informed decisions, but I think this would be a nice bonus feature that would further enhance security.

      • azswift

        They’d need some system to handle the application then being “broken” when requesting these actions, but that would be great!

        Make it an enforceable sandbox.

  • http://theinternet-allofit.blogspot.com Jorge Branco

    Personally I think app reviews and ratings are the best way to avoid malware but more security is always welcome

    • Ion

      Nah, reviews and ratings are always gamed.

      Remember the whole Dolphin browser privacy fiasco, cover-up and denial? They got caught sending URLs of every site you visit to their servers. First they denied it. Then they said it was for a webzine “feature”. Then they said they patched it out (only it wasn’t).

      Lots of users submitted scathing reviews and 1 star ratings. Problem was, they just flooded the ratings with glowing reviews and 5 stars. End result: all the criticism was drowned out.

      I know because I submitted a bad review, then checked the next day. For every bad review, there were multiple five-star reviews. These reviews were usually one word (e.g., great!!!11!! or “awesome!”).

      Worse still, some were exact duplicates with exact usernames. Go figure eh? :D

  • Nate B.

    Love the picture chosen for this blog lol. Androidandme is awesome.

    • Angie Wimberly

      Haha, thanks :)

  • redraider133

    Good to see Google doing something to address the malware issues and now just one less thing others can try and use against android.

  • Vance

    I’m in favor of any security layer which does not impede or dissuade legitimate, honest developers. Yay for bouncer; no one’s slipping rohypnol in MY apps!

  • K2theIzzo

    It’s good to read that Google was already on top of this.

  • 00quantameister

    This is definitely good news as a layer of defense for the apps. But let’s keep in mind that it is only just a layer & it won’t stop any vulnerabilities on the OS side. The real price of security is eternal vigilance on the part of developers, Google, & end users.

    At least Android can say, “iDon’t have an antivirus/anti-malware service for our App Store that prevents malicious apps from running wild. For whatever iDon’t? ANDROID DOES!”

    Good job Google!

  • Jorge Vieira

    Crazy, im sure most malicious appd come from other sources rather than the market.

    • AsakuraZero

      aside from cookies only the market and side loaded apps are installed on the phone everything else is sandboxed thus it doesnt matter what happens on other parts that much, the problem are the apps an their permissions

      • azswift

        Yes folks, keep your eyes open when you grab that new app!

  • Nathan D.

    Thanks bouncer for making downloading apps safer

  • greeny42

    I am definitely not cool enough to get into whatever club that guy is guarding.

  • Adam Snyder

    Android becoming better than ios once again

  • smeghead68

    Nice to know it is there!

  • WlfHart

    Seems like he’s got our backs.

  • Hall Lo

    Nice. But I think we also have to be careful about what we are installing on our devices, thats part of our responsibility too, as customers.

  • Johnbrito

    For My Android mobile I am using COMODO mobile security and I am happy and satisfied with it

  • MitchRapp81

    OMG it’s the big black guy named Ben !! (you guys remember that mp3 floating around in the late 90′s?)

    STEP AWAY FROM THE CAR, [email protected]#ER !

  • http://willoughbyjunction.com Jayson Olson

    This is great news. This added level/layer doesn’t bother me in the least, and I think it’s smart that Google is now trying to take a proactive approach to this.

    I generally only download trusted apps anyway, the ones with the bigs names, and by reading the reviews that others put down in teh marketplace to see what issues (if any they had). If the app is ‘new’, I may even wait a few days to see what others say and let it shake out and test run by others.

    That being said, how often is Bouncer updated? Programs like Malwarebytes has new data signatures on a daily basis, sometimes even more than once a day. I’d like to think Bouncer is updated just as often.

  • Billy

    I love it … Glad to see google bouncing bad app!! Woot!

  • Paul

    lol. Android is the Windows of the Smartphone market. It works across various manufacturers and designs. It’s very popular but it’s a love-hate thing. The people who love it, understand it and know how to use it. The people who hate it are usually the ones who buy cheaper hardware that crashes more often or use outdated copies of apps and the Android OS. It’s the same way with Windows. I don’t hate Windows as much as others because I’m fairly technical and I also exercise a lot of common sense when installing programs or clicking around. I rarely get a virus or spyware and rarely ‘muck up’ my computer, it runs clean and efficient and stable. Same goes for my Android phone. I think Mac/Apple’s appeal is “we’ll give you very little options and won’t let you do everything you want to do in the name of stability and security”. It’s a good model for some, like grandparents and such, but a bad model for others, like the ones who want to actually tweak the hell out of their phone and truly make it theirs.

    • Paul

      Oh and the point of this is, because of it’s popularity, virus writers are targeting it now, just like they target Windows. It’s not that Apple/Mac/iOS can’t get virus’s and spyware and such, well maybe not iPhone due to apple’s insane procedures to get into itunes, it’s just why write a program to potentially infect 10% of the computers (mac os x) vs one to potentially infect 90% of the computers. Why write a program to infect iPhone (35%), well getting it into iTunes would be difficult if at all possible, or write one to infect Android smartphones (60%) and getting it into the market (used to be, now maybe not thanks to bouncer) is easier.