Google's Android platform sees new devices join its ranks on a regular basis. This widespread adoption of the operating system has allowed it to claim a huge share of the smartphone market, but it also makes it a big target for malware developers looking to cash in on stolen data. This year has been particularly gruesome for the OS, and security firm Juniper Networks has determined that the number of Android malware attacks has seen a 472% increase since July 2011.
Android's vulnerability to various types of malicious programs stems from Google's app publishing process, which is lax when compared with Apple's. When you submit an app for the iPhone or iPad, various code signing, verification, and approval steps are required before the application is allowed onto the store. These steps usually kill all malware-ridden programs before they make it to consumers' devices.
Android, on the other hand, requires just a $25 developer fee, after which you can publish any type of app you see fit. The programs aren't reviewed before hitting the virtual storefront, so it's much easier for seedy individuals to trick unsuspecting customers into installing malicious applications. The Android marketplace can and does remove applications that have been reported, but oftentimes the damage has already been done.
In order to ensure you don't fall victim to one of these insidious ploys, it's important to always thoroughly research an application before installing it on your device. You can often find the developer's website in the app description, so be sure to fully vet each program ahead of time. If you can't verify the developer as legitimate, or find enough positive reviews of the app to ensure the app works as intended, it's always better to skip it and err on the side of caution.
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