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Android is still an unsecure mess compared to the iPhone even when it’s not on your phone

Published Jun 19th, 2018 9:41AM EDT
Android Vs iPhone Security

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Google’s Android platform is the most popular mobile operating system in the world by a staggering margin. According to market research firm Net Marketshare’s latest data, Android’s share of the global mobile market sits at 69.87% as of May 2018. Apple’s iOS platform has the next-largest share of the market, but the gap is tremendous. Net Marketshare estimates Apple’s share of the market to be just 28.82% as of May 2018.

Android’s popularity can be attributed for the most part to Google’s distribution model, Google’s size, and good timing. The company released Android shortly after Apple disrupted the smartphone market with the iPhone, and it modeled much of the platform’s functionality after iOS, which was called iPhone OS at the time. The Android OS had initially been developed as a BlackBerry clone of sorts, but Google quickly realized that it needed to retool Android once it saw Apple’s iPhone. Once Android was reworked, it was released as an open source platform that was free to use by any mobile device maker. iOS, meanwhile, is a closed platform that only exists on Apple hardware.

Google’s model has tremendous benefits in terms of both reach and capability, but it also has drawbacks. We’ve covered many of those drawbacks a number of times in the past, but now a fresh new one has reared its head.

Because of the way Google distributes Android, and because of the way it manages the Play store, Android is rife with security issues. Just last month we saw news of scary new malware spreading through Android apps, and then we saw how insanely easy it is to sneak Android malware back into the Play store even after it had previously been identified and removed.

So we know that Android has some serious security issues. It’s a wonderfully versatile and flexible platform with capabilities that iPhone users could never dream of. But with all that freedom comes inherent compromise, and security is something many people are not comfortable with compromising on their smartphones and tablets.

Well, as it turns out, Android doesn’t even have to be installed on your smartphone or tablet to be a security risk.

Some people may be unaware, but there are a number of emulators that allow users to run Android on their desktop and laptop computers, and they’re surprisingly popular. One of the more common Android emulators out there is called Andy OS, and it lets users run Android on their Windows or Mac computers. It’s completely free to download and operate, and it lets users run all sorts of popular Android apps on their PCs.

Did we say free? Well, it turns out that there is indeed a cost involved: Andy OS secretly installs a bitcoin miner on users’ computers.

A user named “TopWire” published an extensive post on Reddit after he made the discovery. According to his findings, the Andy OS installation itself is clean, but the software secretly connects to a remote server once its run on a computer, and it installs a bitcoin miner in the background without the user’s knowledge.

The developers behind Andy OS appear to be in a panic now that the discovery has been made. The Redditor who brought the issue to light was banned from the developer’s Facebook group, but not before he managed to get conflicting stories from different people at the company. One Andy staffer reportedly told him that Andy OS “uses blockchain technology and doesn’t mine bitcoins,” suggesting that the mining software the Redditor found isn’t actually mining bitcoin. A second Andy staff member who is said to be one of the company’s owners said that the mining software “isn’t part of Andy and was installed due to their third party installation file.”

Whatever the case may be, it has been confirmed by several independent third parties that installing Andy OS on your computer does in fact install covertly a bitcoin miner that secretly runs in the background. If you currently have Andy OS installed on your Windows or Mac PC, follow the instructions in the Reddit thread to uninstall it immediately.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.