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Developer Notebook: Watch Out!! They Want To Ruin Your Creation!

Developer Notebook: Watch Out!! They Want To Ruin Your Creation!

Every developer of mobile applications faces the same issues: discovery, monetization, and security. Well, security wasn’t at the forefront until something happened that changed the industry. As seen recently, the mobile world for the first “real” time has been under attack. Last week’s attack on Android has shown there are serious flaws in security. Experts in security have predicted that smartphones will be targeted heavily as more users migrate from computers to smartphones in 2011. Moreover, the attack is even new to the world of computing. For the first time hackers can send malware packets and it costs the user real money.

While Google has reportedly expunged over 50 apps on the Android Market, it is very clear that malware and piracy on mobile devices are at the forefront of the new generation of hackers. It is important for mobile developers to begin a paradigm shift in the business and technology models in maintaining a healthy marketplace for mobile users. And more importantly, for the business. In the meantime Google and the likes will have to battle quickly to change the mindset of the community. After last week’s attack Google responded with some vague notions of their plans to help in the cyber war.

From A Google Blog Post:

  1. We removed the malicious applications from Android Market, suspended the associated developer accounts, and contacted law enforcement about the attack.
  2. We are remotely removing the malicious applications from affected devices. This remote application removal feature is one of many security controls the Android team can use to help protect users from malicious applications.
  3. We are pushing an Android Market security update to all affected devices that undoes the exploits to prevent the attacker(s) from accessing any more information from affected devices. If your device has been affected, you will receive an email from android-market-support@google.com over the next 72 hours. You will also receive a notification on your device that “Android Market Security Tool March 2011” has been installed. You may also receive notification(s) on your device that an application has been removed. You are not required to take any action from there; the update will automatically undo the exploit. Within 24 hours of the exploit being undone, you will receive a second email.
  4. We are adding a number of measures to help prevent additional malicious applications using similar exploits from being distributed through Android Market and are working with our partners to provide the fix for the underlying security issues.

While that is a “nicety” from them, at the moment it is clear that security rests in the hands of developers and users. Here are a couple bits of info to keep in mind while navigating the new mobile world:

Tip #1

Develop games or apps that have a back-end piece to allow you (developer) to monitor app usage and send new content or data to the user. You have to control the data that resides on the device. Control the security as much as possible. While Androids flaw was a security hole at the system level, be proactive in trying to create stop gaps. Think to the future of mobile applications, cloud computing, and usability.  It’s certainly fun to create small standalone apps that may have an Angry Bird appeal. But ultimately most users turn to the developer when bad things happen. And that press, is something you don’t want. So, be bold and create apps that you can control data flow from the studio.

Tip #2

Always keep in your head when developing that someone, somewhere will pirate your software. Especially in an open market. Let’s face it, we all love the idea of an open platform. But in some cases, especially in small development studios any cannibalization of your profits can be detrimental or even fatal to your business. I’m not saying put up so many picket fences around your app that it affects performance, but rather understand the pitfalls of piracy and malware. Be proactive about your own security.

Don’t assume that Google or anyone else will solve these issues for you. Piracy and malware is hitting an all-time high on mobile devices and can be expected to get worse over time. Until drastic security measures are placed into the market, there will be more of the Android fiasco. Go forth and conquer the new world of mobile. Create new and exciting things. Just be smart about the smartphone market.


About the Author
Author

Justin Radeka Justin Radeka, served as former Head of Fishlabs Entertainment U.S where he worked driving mobile game development and business development in the US, Justin also served as Technology Evangelist for ARM Inc., where he worked closely with mobile game developers around the world in driving 3D graphics and games into the market. Prior to joining ARM, He served as Vice President of Developer Relations for Falanx Microsystems where he helped introduce one of the first fully programmable mobile GPU’s into the smart phone market. He has also served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of EVGA, a PC graphics board manufacturer, and as head of the gaming group at Hewlett Packard where he launched one of HP’s first gaming PC’s. He works closely with standards organizations to drive 3D mobile gaming. Mr. Radeka has spoken at events such as Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Games Developer Conference (GDC), Austin Games Conference (now GDC Online), London Mobile Games Forum, and SIGGRAPH. He has published articles on the state of the mobile game industry. He holds a BA from the University of California.

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