Android may be open source, but that doesn’t make the popular smartphone operating system invincible to security problems. Hot on the heels of a recently discovered iOS 4.1 vulnerability that could give malicious users access to a locked iPhone’s phone app, messaging app, and more, a plethora of Android vulnerabilities have been identified.
The new Android vulnerabilities were discovered by researchers at security firm Coverity. In their Coverity Scan Open Source Integrity Report the researchers scoured 61 million lines of open source code, including the Android OS source used in the popular HTC Droid Incredible. Code from Apache, other Linux kernels, PHP, and Samba were among the 291 open source projects examined and compared to the Android kernel.
The team identified 359 bugs in the code. Of these, 88 of them (roughly 25 percent) were categorized as “high risk” — bugs that could endanger users’ privacy.
Coverity gave Android mixed praise for the quality of its code. It said that Android had a lower density of bugs per thousand lines of code than average open source software. But it said it had a higher bug density than the highly scrutinized Linux kernel and that some of the critical bugs should have been caught before release.
While every Android distribution is slightly different, even for the same operating system number, it is thought that these vulnerabilities likely appear in most Froyo-equipped Android phones.
Google has responded quickly to Coverity, reportedly preparing over-the-air fixes that will be delivered by January at the latest. Coverity is holding off on releasing details of the vulnerabilities until those fixes are delivered. Over-the-air fixes are one reason some security experts say Android’s security is superior to that of the Apple iPhone (iOS does not have over-the-air OS updates).
Google now has something in common with Microsoft — as the market leader in a major OS segment, it is the highest profile target for exploitation. Google owns nearly half of the U.S. smartphone market, while RIM and Apple each have roughly a quarter of the market.
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